National Report on Schooling in Australia 2011

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education

7.1 Readiness for school

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014 makes the following statement:

Participation in culturally inclusive, high quality early childhood education programs and care can assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to get the best start in life. These programs build upon the rich cultural, linguistic and conceptual skills that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children bring to early childhood education and:

  • promote early engagement with learning
  • provide a strong foundation for future educational achievement
  • encourage the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children from birth
  • support children in their transition to school.¹

While the publication of enrolment data for the early childhood/preschool sector is outside the general reporting scope of the National Report on Schooling in Australia, these data are reported here specifically to illustrate outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The relevant performance indicator specified in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014 (p. 10) is as follows: The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are enrolled in and attending (where possible to measure) a preschool program.

For the National Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Collection, a preschool program is defined as: … a structured, play-based learning program, delivered by a degree-qualified teacher, primarily aimed at children in the year before they commence full-time schooling. This is irrespective of the type of institution that provides it or whether it is government funded, or privately provided. Programs may be delivered in a variety of service settings including separate preschools or kindergartens, long day care centres or in association with a school.²

Additionally, there are estimates of the percentage of children enrolled that are attending, and the percentage of all children (enrolled and not enrolled) that are attending. In these categories the percentage point differences are 3.1 and 7.3 respectively.

 

 

Table 7.1 Estimates of preschool enrolments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and all children, 2011(a)
 
Estimates of preschool enrolments

(a) While there have been improvements in consistency of reporting across jurisdictions, preschool education estimates have not yet achieved complete alignment with nationally agreed standards.

(b) Data are drawn from ABS, Cat. No. 4240.0, Experimental Estimates of Preschool Education 2011. Numerator data are derived from the National Early Childhood Education and Care) Collection; denominator data are derived from ABS, Cat. No. 3101.0, Estimated Population by Age and Sex, June 2011.

(c) For the purposes of the ABS publication Experimental Estimates of Preschool Education 2011, a child is considered to be attending a preschool program if a child has attended at least one hour during the reference period.

Source: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014, 2011 Annual Report

 

 
It is possible that the different data sources for the numerator and denominator may bias these estimates, noting that self-identification as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin may differ between the preschool enrolment process (from which the data in the numerator are derived) and the process of completing questionnaires for the Census of Population and Housing (the basis for estimated residential population estimates, from which data in the denominator are derived). The direction of this bias would be downwards (underestimating preschool enrolment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children) if parents are less likely to identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin in preschool enrolment forms than in the Census of Population and Housing, and upwards (overestimating preschool enrolment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children) if the reverse is true.
 

 


¹ MCEECDYA, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014, p. 9

² ABS, Cat. No. 4240.0.55.001, National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2011, p. 8