Early Childhood Inclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand

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Early childhood education is encouraged for all 3- to 5-year-old children in New Zealand (known in the Māori language as Aotearoa) and is supported by a well-constructed bicultural curriculum (Te Whāriki) and reasonably generous government funding. However, a number of factors mitigate against inclusion of children with developmental delays and disabilities. These include a lack of training for early childhood teachers; no requirement for Early Childhood Centers to have policies of inclusion; funding and support arrangements based on age rather than developmental stage; a lack of sufficient specialist and paraprofessional support; and a strong sociocultural approach to early childhood education that is often at odds with the need for active support of child development. These barriers to inclusion are surprising, given the quality of the curriculum, the government-supported levels of oversight and quality assessment, and the strong rights-driven research tradition across the nation's universities. The most pressing need is for significant changes to the preservice and in-service teacher education programs to ensure that the responsibility for inclusion is shouldered by the whole profession and the potential of Te Whāriki can be realized.

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