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Experts warn early education and care sector ‘in crisis’

3 October, 2023

By Olivia Bing 

According to industry experts, poor government regulations and a lack of funding have caused significant strain on the early care and education sector (ECE).

Executive Officer at ECE Reform and public health specialist of the early care and education sector, Dr Mike Bedford, told 95bFM’s The Wire that the current number of children to ECE teachers has resulted in overwhelming workloads.

By law, a 1:5 teacher to child ratio is required for children under two years old. 

“This is absolutely unmanageable and leaves children in a situation of emotional neglect. You simply can’t get the time with the children that the children need,” said Bedford. 

Certified teacher and programme director of the University of Auckland’s Graduate Diploma in Teaching, Tamar Weisz-Koves, told The Wire that increased private sector competition has seen universities reducing and shutting down ECE undergraduate programmes.

“People in the faculty are losing their jobs and programmes are being shut down.” 

“It is a sign of the times in a sector in which morale is low.” 

Weisz-Koves is concerned about centres struggling to stay open, with many being bought by large corporations. 

“The privatisation of education sits very uncomfortably with educational values — especially in institutions that espouse the values of relationships, equity, and social justice.”

Although the sector is in crisis, Dr Bedford believes there are positives, with many passionate parents and teachers working to make a difference, such as the creation of the Early Childhood Parents Council. 

“It’s good that we have an organisation who are going to start representing parents on this.”  

Bedford said solutions to the problems facing ECE already exist, but lack the funding to be implemented. 

“We have a suite of proposals that can turn the sector around for good.” 

Listen to the full interview