This week Japan’s government adopted legislation to make preschool free of charge for all children beginning Oct. 1, 2019. The government plans to fund the free preschool and some childcare, a key policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, with revenue from the consumption tax hike from 8 percent to 10 percent. The legislation comes with an annual cost of about ¥776.4 billion (US$7 billion), including expenses covered by local governments. However, for the first six months, all of the costs will be shouldered by the central government. Under the bill, fees will be fully covered for children aged 3 to 5 at certified daycares and preschools (called kindergartens in Japan), regardless of their parents’ incomes. Zero- to two-year-olds of low-income families will also be able to receive services free of charge. However, a lack of spaces at certified childcare facilities and preschools remains a problem countrywide. Read more at The Japan News.
The Dutch government has announced a series of initiatives to expand supports for young children and their families beginning in 2019. Through a total government investment of €248 million (US$280 million), the childcare allowance, which provides subsidized childcare for families on an income-based sliding scale, has increased for almost all families from 2018 to 2019. Paid parental leave for the second parent of infants has also increased from two to five days at full salary. Beginning in 2020, the second parent will have the option to take five additional weeks of leave at 70 percent of salary. Finally, the government has introduced new quality requirements for early childhood education and care providers, including higher staff-to-child ratios and assignment of a “mentor” staff member for each child to focus on supporting individual children’s development. Providers have raised concerns that the new staffing requirements may exacerbate existing shortages of early childhood educators. The Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the largest news organization in the Netherlands, reports that there are currently more than 4,500 staff vacancies in the childcare sector, or about 7 percent of the total childcare workforce. Read more from NL Times here and here.
The South Korean Ministry of Education announced that it is organizing a task force to introduce more flexibility into its high school graduation requirements by moving to a credit system. Currently, students need to attend a set of required courses to graduate. Korean students are not given the opportunity to choose among required, advanced, and applied courses in various subjects based on their interest and aptitude. Other countries, like Singapore, England, Finland, Canada, and the United States, use a credit system, allowing high school students to pick their courses as long as they earn a certain number of credits to qualify for graduation. The South Korean government plans to have the credit system partially introduced to all high schools by 2022 and fully implemented by 2025. Read more in The Korea Bizwire.
This week, New Zealand Education Minister Chris Hipkins proposed merging all 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology into a single national institute. The proposal, aimed at strengthening the sector which has suffered from falling enrollments and multi-million dollar deficits, would create a New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology that would have single governing council and manage all 16 institutes in order to help address governance and management issues. The proposal would also create a new vocational education funding system and make the country’s 11 industry training organizations (organization which are established by each industry to arrange workplace training within their industries, set national skill standards, lead qualifications development, and play a central role in industry-related vocational education and training ) responsible for 140,000 trainees and apprentices in addition to the nearly 110,000 vocational education learners they already serve. Noting the proposals are ambitious, Hipkins said “We cannot continue to tweak the system knowing that the model is fundamentally broken and isn’t delivering our workforce the skills they need to thrive.” Industry training organizations have countered Hipkins, saying students and apprentices will suffer under the proposal. According to Hipkins, the new national polytechnic could be set up as early as 2020. Read more from Radio New Zealand.
Technology, globalization, and an aging population are transforming the world of work, but few countries have in place adequate training programs to help adults develop the skills they need for the changing workplace, a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found. Only two in five adults participate in education or training in a given year, the report found, and disadvantaged adults—those with low skills, older adults, and part-time workers—are much less likely to receive training than those with more advantages. The report found that Greece, Japan, and the Slovak Republic perform poorly across all dimensions of adult learning, but there is room for improvement in well-performing countries as well, the report found. The full report is available here.