Infants of the productivity agenda: Learning from birth or waiting to learn?

Sandra Cheeseman
Macquarie University
Charles Sturt University

Jennifer Sumsion
Frances Press
Charles Sturt University

The Australian Early Childhood Reform Agenda, initiated in 2008 by the then Labor government, heralded a commitment to a focus on child outcomes in early childhood education and care policy in order to give Australia’s children the ‘best start in life’. A number of workforce policy initiatives aimed at achieving this ambition were announced, prioritising improvements in child-to-staff ratios and the qualifications of educators working with young children. More recently, the draft report of the Australian Productivity Commission Inquiry into child care and early learning has challenged these workforce reforms by reviving historic divisions between education and care and differentiating the learning needs of children over three from those under three. Claiming evidence that infants’ participation in early childhood education contributes to any long-term benefit is inconclusive, the Productivity Commission called for a substantial lowering of qualifications requirements for educators working with children under three years. A juxtaposition of the reform agenda and the Commission’s recommendations reveals a disjuncture in understandings of infants and consequently the type of workforce needed to support their wellbeing and learning. While contemporary Australian early childhood policy promotes images of infants as learners from birth, the Productivity Commission draft report portrays them as waiting to learn. In examining the pendulum of shifting ideas about infants, we highlight the vulnerability of infants in early childhood policy, especially in relation to the shaping of the workforce responsible for them.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood —Volume 40 No 3 September 2015

Don’t forget, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals

Click here to purchase this issue of the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood.