Andreas Schleicher told those at a University of Wollongong conference on Thursday that investing in children’s early development was a must.
But the keynote Early Start Conference 2017 speaker strongly argued spending more money on education was not enough.
Mr Schleicher said investing in the early years of a child’s life is where Australia can get the biggest return on its education investment.
The Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General, at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, speaks from experience.
Mr Schleicher coordinates the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which compares, country-by-country, the academic performance in maths, science and reading of 15-year-olds around the world.
Having watched Australia’s performance in PISA slide over the past 10 years, he argues making education and childcare more affordable was ‘’especially important’’.
‘’It’s not the case in Australia but there are many places in Europe where small children are the only ones we ask to pay tuition,’’ Mr Schleicher said.
‘’You wouldn’t dare for instance raise the case in France for people who go university to pay tuition. But they extract money from the very smallest, so it is still an expensive exercise for most countries.’’
The conference runs September 27-29 and includes early childhood experts from around the world, representing a variety of disciplines including education, psychology and health sciences.
“Helping Children Flourish and Realise Their Potential: Translating Research for Policy, Practice and Community”, is the conference theme.
Early Start research director Professor Tony Okely said the global conversation has shifted recently towards the importance of investing in the early years.
‘’This conference will allow this conversation to continue and for those working and researching in the early years, a chance to hear from the leading researchers and policymakers,’’ he said.
‘’Early Start’s vision is for children to flourish, be active learners and become engaged members of society.
‘’We aim to influence policy and practice through interdisciplinary research and intersectional collaborations that improve knowledge and understanding of child development, health, and learning.’’