Every child deserves the best possible start in life, and their early years play a critical role in their overall development. However, the current teacher-to-child ratios in early childhood education (ECE) settings fall short of meeting the needs of our children. It is essential to understand why lower ratios are crucial for ensuring that our tamariki (children) receive the appropriate care and education that parents and caregivers expect.
Insufficient Evidence and Outdated Ratios
The current ratios, established decades ago without any evidence or research, are inadequate for addressing the needs of children in ECE. These ratios were put in place in the 1960s, a time when outdated practices such as smoking in cars and corporal punishment were considered normal. It is essential to update and improve these ratios to align with current knowledge and understanding of early childhood development.
Individualised Care and Attention
Lower ratios are crucial for providing individualised care and attention to each child. With a reduced ratio of one teacher for every four children under the age of three, teachers can dedicate quality time to nurture and support each child's unique needs. Individualised interactions foster stronger bonds, promote social-emotional development, and enhance educational outcomes.
Safe and Nurturing Environment
Higher ratios make it challenging for teachers to create a safe and nurturing environment for young children. Caring for a larger number of infants or toddlers within the current ratios can lead to chaos and overwhelm. By reducing the ratio, teachers can ensure that children receive adequate care, including meal times, nappy changes, and rest, while also creating a loving and supportive space for learning.
Enhanced Educational Outcomes
Lower teacher-to-child ratios have a positive impact on educational outcomes. With fewer children to care for and educate, teachers can better observe and understand each child's developmental progress. They can identify areas of strength and areas that need further support, allowing for more targeted and effective teaching strategies. This individualised approach contributes to improved cognitive, social, and emotional development in young children.
Juggling multiple responsibilities and attending to various needs simultaneously is mentally and physically exhausting. This constant strain increases the likelihood of burnout and makes it challenging for teachers to sustain their careers in the field. Moreover, the demanding conditions associated with high ratios discourage individuals from pursuing careers in early childhood education. Maintaining lower child to teacher ratios is crucial to alleviate stress, improve staff retention, and attract new educators to ensure a nurturing environment for young children.