1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
   Page tools: Print Print Page

Education and training


Early childhood education in Australia encompasses early learning programs in preschools and other organisations, and the skills development of children from birth onwards. A number of studies at the domestic and international level have noted that young children who do not have appropriate learning opportunities may suffer from adverse outcomes later in life. Research also indicates that a child's brain undergoes the most rapid development in the first five years of life. This has prompted policy-makers and education providers to introduce formal programs to improve access and participation in early childhood education for children in the year or two before full-time school. Such programs, aimed at raising children's readiness for school, are generally available in preschools and in a range of child care settings.


A preschool program is a structured, play-based learning program, primarily aimed at children in the year or two before commencing full-time school. Depending on the service models in each state and territory, preschool programs may be delivered by government or non-government schools, government or community preschools, or by child care providers. Educational programs or curricula may be provided in long day care centres or other settings.

Preschool programs in long day care centres are structured and planned as part of an early childhood education program with specific educational aims and objectives. Long day care preschool programs are aimed at children who are at least three years of age, although some younger children may participate in such programs.

National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection

In 2008, the importance of education in the early years of a child's development was formally acknowledged through the Council of Australian Governments' endorsement of 'universal access' to early childhood education in the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education. Under this agreement, Commonwealth, state and territory governments committed to ensuring that all children will have access to a quality early childhood education program by 2013, delivered by a four-year university-trained early childhood teacher, for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year, in the year before full-time schooling.

As a result of this agreement, the ABS established the National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection, the aim of which is to provide comparable jurisdictional statistics on early childhood education and care.

The ABS publication Experimental Estimates of Preschool Education, Australia, 2010 (4240.0), presents experimental estimates of counts of children in the year before full-time school who were enrolled in, and attending, preschool programs together with total episodes of preschool enrolments and attendances. The data are collected from existing administrative datasets. A key collection challenge involves aligning the data standards required for this collection with the pre-existing jurisdictional data collections and recording methods. The ABS is working with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and all states and territories in collection development activities focused on improving coverage and alignment of data collection standards.


The 2008 ABS Childhood Education and Care Survey (CEaCS) showed that of the 1,028,000 children aged four to eight years who were attending school in June 2008, 82% had attended a preschool program in the year prior to starting school. Of those children who had attended a preschool program, parents reported that the vast majority (94%) made a good adjustment to school compared with 88% of children who did not attend a preschool program in the year prior to starting school. For more information, see Childhood Education and Care, Australia, June 2008 (4402.0).

According to the 2008 ABS CEaCS, 257,000 children attended preschool in the reference week, of whom three out of five (61%) were aged four years. Among all four-year olds, 60% were attending preschool in the surveyed week compared with only 11% of five-year olds (the majority of five-year olds having already commenced school).

Graph 12.1 shows that, between 1993 and 2008, the proportion of four-year olds attending preschool fluctuated between 46% and 62%, whereas the proportion attending long day care centres increased steadily (from 12% in 1993 to 30% in 2008).



Previous Page | Next Page

Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.