By Peter Jackson – Editor – Northland Age
The philosophy that has served children and parents so well for so long, of providing an effectively free, quality pre-school education in a structured setting on a sessional basis, is making way for a new political one, where the focus is firmly set on allowing, for want of a better word, parents (mothers) to take their place in the workforce.
A small gathering of parents heard the explanation for that from the local kindergarten association in Kaitaia last week. The proposal, to accept three- and four-year-old children for up to six hours per day four days per week, and a little over four hours on the fifth, was offered as an option, but that is hardly accurate. The fact is that government funding of the traditional kindergarten format, comprising five three-hour morning sessions and three two and a half-hour afternoon sessions each week, is now so inadequate that the association has but two choices, to adopt the new format or go broke. Some option.
It was claimed, without supporting evidence, that children will flourish within a ?full-day’ format, although parenting experience suggests that three hours’ education is about all a pre-schooler can absorb in one hit. Six hours per day, for which an hourly rate will be charged (the first 20 hours being free under the government’s current policy), is simply not pre-school education. It is day care. Let’s at least be honest about that.
The association and its three kindergartens are undoubtedly in a difficult position. They apparently have no choice but to offer a day care service; it must be understood that the motivation is financial, not educational. It is about making ends meet under a government funding regime that is being used shamelessly to push a political agenda, the association’s response being about extracting the maximum in government funding by rolling over and offering a service that it hopes (but does not know) will appeal to sufficient parents to make it work. The kids will do as they are told.