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The Australian National University

Education Part 1: Early Childhood Education

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to provide an updated description of the level of participation of Indigenous children in early childhood education, as well as an analysis of the differences in outcomes between those children who do and do not attend. The five main conclusions from the census analysis are that: there has been a decline over the last intercensal period in the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in terms of preschool participation; this decline was mainly due to reductions in the non-Indigenous rates, as well as a change in the geographic distribution of the Indigenous population; despite consistency at the national level there were 26 out of 37 Indigenous Regions that experienced a significant increase in preschool participation; many remote regions are catching up to non-remote regions in rates of participation; large gaps still remain between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children once geography and other characteristics are controlled for. Another major finding from the paper is that although Indigenous children who participated in preschool tend to start school with lower rates of developmental vulnerability than those who did not, there are still very large gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students once preschool is controlled for. Preschool participation is important. However, it alone is not sufficient to ensure all Indigenous children start school in the same position as their non-Indigenous peers.