Policy shifts in early childhood education: Past lessons, new directions
This chapter charts changing policy approaches to early childhood education in New Zealand over almost two decades, from 1986 to early 2005.
It describes how successive governments have shifted from minimal state intervention to more supportive approaches, and analyses the impact of those shifts on early childhood education services.
Landmark policy changes discussed in the chapter include the move in 1986 to transfer responsibility for all childcare services to the Department of Education, and with it the recognition that care and education are intertwined. In 1988 came the Before Five policy, with a boost in funding and a promise to give early childhood education equal status with other education sectors.
The chapter documents a swing back during the 1990s to a position of less government responsibility for the quality and provision of early childhood education. Staffing qualification requirements were reduced and there were funding cutbacks. A positive policy move was the development of the early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki, in 1996.
The policy pendulum shifted again in 1999 with the election of a Labour-led Government. It undertook wide consultation to put together a 10 year strategic plan aimed at improving the quality of early childhood services, increasing participation and improving collaboration across the sector.
The chapter describes the latest policy stance as a marked shift away from a purely market approach, to a more supportive role for the state.
Book Chapter in: Education policy directions in Aotearoa New Zealand. J. Codd & K. Sullivan (Eds.), South Bank, Vic: Thomson/Dunmore Press, 2005. p. 175-198