Indigenous children in Australia, particularly in remote and regional areas, are more likely to be behind non-Indigenous children when they begin their education.
This is why the federal government announced on Aug. 4 its investment of more than $120 million to expand existing early learning services and trial a new “explicit teaching” early learning model.
The announcement forms part of the Australian government’s latest effort to “close the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said, “Disadvantaged children benefit the most from quality early education and care, yet their participation lags, especially in remote communities.”
“Reviews over many years have clearly shown that the best way to make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island kids succeed is by getting them into quality programs early on in life.”
Programs that already demonstrate success in lifting participation are the focus of the measure to scale up these initiatives, a Department of Education joint press release stated.
Four programs will share the more than $120 million investment, including Connected Beginnings ($81.8 million), Community Child Care Fund Restricted Program ($29.9 million), Early Years Education Program ($9 million), and Good to Great Schools Australia ($1.9 million).
The Department of Education stated that the investment would allow Connected Beginnings to expand to 27 new sites, helping an additional 8,550 children be safe, healthy, and school-ready by the age of five. It will also fund up to 20 new mostly Indigenous-run child care services in remote communities, benefitting around 3,500 children.
Additionally, the expansion of the Early Years Education Program will help connected highly disadvantaged children at four new locations across Queensland and Victoria to child care services and targeted health, nutrition, and mental health services, the press release stated.
It will also fund the trial of a new “explicit teaching” approach to early learning, championed by Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, chair of Good to Great Schools Australia. In explicit teaching, also called “Direct Instruction,” lessons are scripted, with students shown and told what to do, rather than being left to discover information on their own.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said, “Through these measures, we are enabling local communities to develop and deliver culturally appropriate solutions and support to local families to ensure children are healthy, happy and ready to thrive at school.”