OECD calls for an extra year of kindergarten to combat disadvantages in education

Australian children should get access to more than a year of preschool education to help prevent further entrenching disadvantage at an early age, according to the OECD.

The Paris-based group has suggested the idea in a new report which lays bare the challenges facing the nation’s education system.

While Australia still stacks up well by international standards, the report shows a continuing decline in performance in reading, mathematics and science.

The share of “low-performing” students has also increased in each of those three subject areas.

Another concerning trend is equity.

The report found the rate of Australian children aged 3 to 5 attending early childhood education (82 per cent) was lower than the OECD average, with “participation gaps” apparent among disadvantaged and Indigenous children.

It recommended expanding universal preschool — known as kindergarten in WA — beyond the one-year offered to children across Australia.

The report pointed to research that showed children who spent two years in early childhood education performed far better in reading than their peers who had not.

“The foundations for a good ECEC (early childhood education and care) system exist in Australia, but need to be expanded so that those at greater need can benefit from it,” the report, to be published on Tuesday, said.

“Access to quality ECEC provides the foundation to prevent greater disadvantage as students move throughout their education pathways.”

In another finding, the report blames COVID-related disruptions and “climate-related shocks” for contributing to a “growing disengagement” from education for high school students.

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