Accessibility and effectiveness of early childhood education and care for families from low socioeconomic status backgrounds in Australia
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2016 Dr. Daniel Cloney
This thesis focuses on the potential for high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) programs to narrow the cognitive achievement gaps associated with family socio economic status (SES). Large benefits have been observed in carefully designed experiments that implement model ECEC programs. In such programs, achievement gaps between children from lower SES families and their more advantaged peers are narrowed and potentially closed. This is not, however, the pattern observed in everyday ECEC programs in the population where typically small, no, or negative effects are observed. This thesis considers how families are constrained by the availability of ECEC programs in their local area (availability), how the choice of ECEC program is influenced by family context (decision making), and how much ECEC programs contribute to the learning and development of children from low SES backgrounds (effectiveness). Using data from the E4Kids study, negotiated data linkages, and public data collections this thesis contributes new knowledge about the Australian ECEC market and its effectiveness. Altogether, 2494 children participated in the study and longitudinal data is used from the years 2010 to 2012, covering the children’s transition from ECEC programs into school. Major findings include that: • The local ECEC market (the ECEC programs near to family’s homes) is smaller than previously thought. • There are relatively fewer ECEC spaces per resident child in low SES areas, and on average they were found to be of lower quality. • Families from low SES background tend to select lower quality ECEC programs particularly when children are two or more years before school. • The typical ECEC programs observed in Australia provide small and positive effects for the children who attend them, controlling for the local market size and the family selection process. There was, however, no evidence found that children from low SES backgrounds catch up to their more advantaged peers. The everyday ECEC market in Australia is not organised to deliver a reduction in the inequality of outcomes observed for children from low SES backgrounds. There is substantial potential to lift the quality of all ECEC programs, but particular attention should be given to programs operating in low SES areas, and serving the youngest aged children.
Keywordsearly childhood education and care; ECEC; socioeconomic status; SES; quality; CLASS; instructional support; equity; cognitive development; Woodcock-Johnson III; verbal ability
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