Personal experience and conversations with early childhood educators have led to my conclusion that it’s rather hit and miss as to whether your child will be taught phonics before they begin school. The reason is seemingly because when the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) was introduced in 2009 it caused considerable confusion amongst educators, many of whom had been operating for years with a more structured ‘preschool program’ in place. These preschool programs typically included explicit instruction in numeracy and literacy, particularly phonemic awareness, of which phonics is a subset. In contrast, the EYLF “has a specific emphasis on play-based learning and recognises the importance of communication and language (including early literacy and numeracy) and social and emotional development.” (Belonging, Being & Becoming, the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009) The document recommends that educators should facilitate learning by following the children’s interests in a more organic way, rather than via more structured learning tasks. With little detail as to how the new framework was to be implemented, many educators abandoned their preschool program, but weren’t quite sure what to replace it with. Since then, many Centres have sought clarification from DOCS and have gone on to develop their own effective learning programs, while others have not.
Therefore, your second question should be addressed to the Centre Director at your child’s day care centre or preschool:
“Do you explicitly and consistently teach the children their letters and sounds?”
If the answer is no, you should take steps to ensure they start learning them. Speak to the Centre Director about your concerns and ask if phonics can be included in their learning program. If the response is not what you hoped for, and you have the time and confidence, teach your child at home, or consider enrolling your child in a phonics program.
Stay tuned next week for question #3!