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Underinvestment In Early Education Labelled As Stupid Economic And Social Policy

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Underinvestment In Early Education Labelled As Stupid Economic And Social Policy

Economists Suzanne Snivelly and Prue Hyman joined social commentator Campbell Roberts today to call for investment in early childhood education as a priority.

Campbell Roberts told 150 people attending the Early Education Federation Forum in Wellington there was a desperate need for investment in early education, particularly for Maori and other vulnerable children.

"To not be taking adequate care of early childhood education and making sure this scarce resource of our children is not marginalised is extremely stupid," he said. "We can talk about a shortage of money, but we do make choices to put money into motorways and prisons. If we make those choices over and above early childhood education and children at risk, we are heading for difficulty."

Ms Snivelly called early education investment a "win, win, win". She said the return investment for children under five gave a higher return than any other.

"If we are going to invest in productivity in New Zealand, this is the area we should invest in to get a more productive economy. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to get this. Why isn't it getting through?"

Mr Roberts questioned the value of New Zealand's almost $10 million corrections budget, compared to early years investment. "Why can we find money for these things and not for investment in early childhood education for our most vulnerable children?" he said.

Economist Prue Hyman said investment in early education made economic sense for a wide range of reasons, including reduced costs in special education, benefits, healthcare and crime; increased workforce participation of women resulting in a higher tax take and an increase in the GDP.

"International evidence demonstrates that investing in good quality early childhood education can bring cost savings and benefits to government and economies as well as to children and families," she said.

Commenting on government's recent funding cuts to quality early childhood education, Ms Hyman said: "Benefits will reduce with lower quality. Fees will increase. Lower participation and lower benefits are a vicious cycle affecting adversely society as a whole, the children and their parents."

The forum was organised by the Early Education Federation, which represents around 20 national organisations, including kindergarten, playcentre, home-based services, education and care centres and early childhood education training organisations.

Forum organiser Helen Baxter said recent attacks on early childhood education funding meant the forum was timely and necessary, as this month budget funding cuts begin to take effect on early childhood education services.

"The sector is concerned at cuts to early childhood education, and signals that there may be further cuts to come," said Helen Baxter.

New Zealand Kindergartens chief executive Clare Wells said the economic benefits of investment in quality early education must not be underestimated.

"There is evidence of returns in terms of educational achievement, health, social adjustment, workforce participation, and reduced crime rates, she said.

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