The latest EU Social Justice Index ranks Ireland lowest in the EU for investment in pre-primary education and underlines the need for substantially increased investment in early years education.
This is according to Tallaght based organisation Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) who say figures from the EU Social Justice Index 2017, released today, indicate Ireland ranks lowest among 28 EU countries for investment in pre-primary education.
Ireland currently invests about 0.1% of GDP, considerably lower than the EU average of 0.8%.
Commenting on the report, Frances Byrne, Director of Policy with ECI, said:
‘The figures outlined in this report further underline the urgent need to radically increase investment in early childhood education.
“The data tallies with that released in the OECD Education at a Glance report in September, which ranked Ireland lowest among 22 EU Member States for investment in early years. This is not sustainable.’
‘The early years sector educates and cares for our youngest citizens. It is imperative that we commit to them by increasing funding so as to fully support a quality and affordable system.
The release of these figures comes just one month after the announcement of Budget 2018, which saw a very low level of increased investment in childcare.
While the government provided for a 7% increase in capitation levels for early years providers, this falls far short of the 15% identified by Early Childhood Ireland as key to supporting the sector.
Frances Byrne added, ‘This latest report offers an opportunity to place Ireland’s provision for young children next to our EU counterparts. It is shameful to see that once again, we fall far behind. The Nordic countries, which are frequently identified as leaders in early years excellence, invest between 1.3% and 1.9% of GDP in this area.’
‘Early years providers are closely involved with children and their families at the most crucial stage of their lives,’ she concluded. ‘It is vital that they are fully supported in the delivery of a quality, sustainable, and affordable service.’
‘Otherwise, they, as well as hard-pressed parents, are left to subsidise the costs of providing care and education. This requires urgent action by government.’