Australia’s early childhood contexts consist of family day care facilities, child care or long day care, pre-school/kindergarten and primary school. The childhood education and care programs include kindergartens/ preschools for children prior to commencing primary school. They focus on play based learning for delicate minds of children. Child care is gaining a lot of importance in Australia with scenarios where both parents participate in paid jobs. Australia is also attempting to bring together child care and education through integrated models of early childhood centres (ABC News., 2017)).
Australian schools have undergone massive reformation over the last decade through national policies agreed by federal and state governments. These policies include:
A curriculum synchronized with Australian culture and lifestyle
NAPLAN- standardized national assessments in literacy and numeracy
My School website for national reporting of schools
Well defined profession standards for principals and teachers
a year of universally accessible preschools before commencing primary education
Implementation of “Gonski” reforms for needs based funding (partially)
Critical issues in prior to school and primary settings
Despite these reforms and efforts by the Australian government, there has been very little sign of a positive change, impact or outcome (Theobald, 2017). In the past decade when these reforms have taken place, other rapid changes in economic, social, cultural and technological conditions of the country have put new pressures of endless possibilities on the education system and people working in it. For example, the continuously spreading ethnic and cultural diversity in Australia and its close connect with the Asia-Pacific region is creating challenges for teachers and educators to stick to the traditional Australian curriculum (Brown and Grigg, 2016). With increasing technologically advancement especially in the use of mobile phones and digital technology and active digitalization, more urbanization is taking place. This in turn is creating disparity in wealth and income, impacting the education sector negatively with immense pressure to accommodate and educate more people. Also, the major responsibility of innovating solutions for solving wider society problems has been burdened on the shoulders of teachers and too much is being expected out of them (Brown and Grigg, 2016).
The problem is exemplified with replication of a failing education system- school funding impasse. Government policies continue to focus on achieving collaboration between government and private schools in the system. However, funding settlements ultimately privilege the elite schools only and consistently fail to provide needs-based funding to schools and teachers who need their support the most. This leads to further polarization of educational opportunities and outcomes. The privileged children can take advantage of these opportunities like child care, preschool and primary school before going to college (Gibson et al., 2017). Those who are from unprivileged backgrounds have to depend on home schooling before starting their formal education and increasingly face difficulties in getting along with their teachers and counterparts. These children do not have weak brains or grasping skills, they are just at a disadvantage since prior to school education does matter in a child’s mental development. They face difficulties in coping up with the pressure of competitive education and job markets later in life (Gibson et al., 2017). The factors like identity politics, fostering conflicts over race, class, migration and gender play a critical role in stimulating these trends.
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