Launch of the Government’s Early Childhood Education Strategy Plan

  • Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Today is an important day for early childhood education as we launch this new ten year strategic plan for early childhood education : Pathways to the Future: Ngâ Huarahi Arataki.

I know that for some present in the audience, today marks the culmination of many years of committed work. In particular, I thank Dr Anne Meade and the members of the strategic plan working group which she chaired. The work you have done has built strong foundations for the strategy.

Pathways to the Future has been developed after intense consultation between the government, the early childhood education sector, academics, and parents. We now need to continue that collaboration so that the implementation of the strategy can be as successful as its development has been.

The Background to the Strategic Plan

In 1999 the Labour Party manifesto contained a commitment to develop a long term strategic plan for early childhood education in consultation with the sector. We pledged to do that because of our conviction of the importance of early childhood education. There needed to be a long term commitment to improving its quality and increasing participation in it.

To do that we needed a planned and stepped approach. We needed to make sure that we made the necessary changes in the right order. So, early strategies form the foundations of the plan and later strategies build on them.

This strategy is best thought of as a road map. It sets out the vision of where we want to go, and it plots the journey that we must undertake to get there.

The journey began with the working group, chaired by Dr Anne Meade in August 2000. There were fifteen months consultation, many meetings, and thirteen hundred submissions. Now the journey must continue with the government working with early childhood education professionals, families, and communities to get the best results from the strategy.

Importance of Early Childhood Education

In a child’s early years, the development of the brain creates the basis for on-going learning throughout life. The foundations for language are established, and the major parameters of the child’s attitudes and dispositions towards the world are developed. These years are a critical learning period as children are very receptive to positive learning opportunities.

Early childhood education has an important part to play in these early years. Research, here and overseas, shows that participation in quality early childhood education makes a positive difference for children, their families, and the wider society.

In quality early childhood education, children develop literacy and numeracy concepts, approaches to problem solving, social and co-operative skills, and an enjoyment of learning, all of which provide the foundation for later learning.
The recently released Competitive Children at 10 research shows that, in New Zealand, the positive effects of early childhood education are still present some five years after the child has left. It also shows that children with early childhood education experiences are stronger in areas such as problem solving, communication, individual responsibility, and perseverance.

While all the evidence supports participation in early childhood education, some children, often the most needy, are still missing out. That is why this strategy sets out a long term vision and plan for increasing participation in quality early childhood services.

Working Together

In today’s launch, Trevor Mallard will talk about the strategy’s three goals : improving, quality, increasing participation, and promoting collaborative relationships.

The first two goals are long standing government goals for early childhood education. This strategy focuses on how to achieve them. The third goal, on collaboration was developed by the strategic plan working group.

As you will see in Trevor Mallard’s presentation, a number of the strategies can only succeed if government, parents, communities, and the early childhood education sector work together.


New Zealand’s early childhood education sector is already a world leader. Our participation levels are already high by world standards. We have led the world in integrating the care and education of young children under one curriculum, Te Whâriki. Now Pathways to the Future: Ngâ Haurahi Arataki plots the journey we must take together to strengthen the sector further.

I thank Trevor Mallard for the leadership and enthusiasm he has shown for early childhood education, and all those who have contributed to the drawing up of this strategy.