Specialist Journalist Hayley McAdam reached out to the Honourable Ingrid Stitt MP, Minister for Workplace Safety and Minister for Early Childhood asking questions regarding the announcement of over 160 kindergartens in Victoria taking part in the Andrew’s Labor Government $17.9 million Early Childhood Language Program. The Early Childhood Language Program is enabling over 6,000 children at over 160 kindergartens to learn in a different language. It is the first state funded language program to be rolled out in kindergartens. Early childhood services were selected to deliver the languages program through an expression of interest (EOI) process held in 2018. These are the questions that were asked.
Are the Kindergartens that are being funded all around Victoria or is it in a key regional and urban area?
"Three-year old kindergarten is being rolled out in stages, with at least five hours a week at a funded kindergarten program available to children state-wide from 2022. This will increase to up to 15 hours a week by 2029".
Are the languages the languages randomly delegated to demographic areas or is it just the one language that they learn? How does this match self-determination within our communities to choose the languages offered?
"In their expression of interest (EOI), services nominated their preferred language for the program, based on the diversity of their community, the views of parents and families, continuity with language education at nearby primary schools, and the availability of a qualified language teacher".
Which Aboriginal languages are being offered to the children and would you like to see more languages being offered to more Victorian children?
"The department has partnered with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated to support those services that selected to deliver an Aboriginal language program to ensure protocols are followed in consulting with community and seeking Traditional Owner approval".
Why do you think leaning a language is so important for children to know in their early childhood and building that foundation for their academic achievement?
"Attending a quality kindergarten program has profound, lasting benefits for children’s future learning, wellbeing, and social and emotional development. Research shows that these benefits have an even greater impact when children start at kindergarten at age three instead of four".
A list of these services, including which language they are learning, is available at www.education.vic.gov.au/eclanguages
The Victorian Government is also investing almost 5 million to provide three-year old children with access to 15 hours a week of a funded kindergarten program. Is this accessible to everyone?
"Throughout all stages of the reform, children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait families will continue to have access to the Early Start Kindergarten (ESK) program, which guarantees 15 hours of a three-year-old kindergarten program each week at low or no cost to families. All eligible families are encouraged to talk to their local services to make sure they are enrolled through the ESK program so their children receive their full entitlements".
You can find out more about funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten here: https://www.vic.gov.au/kinder
You can find out more about the Early Start Kindergarten program here: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/parents/child-care-kindergarten/Pages/kindergarten-aboriginal.aspx