Minister Roderic O’ Gorman’s announcement of a six-year program of investment in Early Childhood Education/Care may well be the most transformative initiative in Irish education since Donagh O Malley’s introduction of free second-level education in 1966.
The move away from a private sector model – where many of those holding level 8 degrees in Early Childhood Education are paid little more than minimum wage – to a State-supported and managed system, has the potential to be truly transformative. It enables professionals in the field to envisage a viable career engaged in building the foundations of learning for the nation’s youngest children.
Currently, many of these highly qualified Early Childhood educators move on quickly to other roles in society as they realise that the sector offers no prospects of financial viability in their personal career journey.
Only time will tell whether the will exists within our political class to truly provide equality of opportunity to all our youngest citizens.
Will it prove to be too big an ask of politicians, whose perspective is normally constrained by the four-year electoral cycle, to invest heavily in such a transformative educational project for babies when the returns will only become clearly evident in 10-15 years’ time?