Based on the success of the Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) trial app, the Turnbull Government has announced that it will commit $6 million to develop a similar, STEM-focused app for preschoolers.
The minister for education, Simon Birmingham, said the ELLA app received an overwhelmingly positive response from parents, children and educators. He said more than 1700 Australian preschoolers learnt languages such as Japanese, Indonesian, French, Mandarin and Arabic under the “Polyglots” app, allowing children to be equipped with what Birmingham described as “vital-life skills”.
Labor spokeswoman for families, Jenny Macklin, begged to differ. “At this rate, it will take 250 years to meet the target outlined in the government’s election policy, costing taxpayers $27,000 a day,” she said.
The co-owner of early childhood education and care service provider Explore & Develop Camperdown, Susan Feltaous, and director of Top Ryde Early Learning, Nesha O’Neill, both incorporated the trial at their centres.
Feltaous said the children at her centre had developed an interest in Mandarin. “You can see that sometimes they change between English and the Mandarin language when undertaking an activity. Recently they have started counting in Mandarin whilst jumping on a trampoline. It’s been amazing to watch,” she said.
O’Neill, who is also treasurer of the Australian Childcare Alliance, added: “They found it fun. We had to limit the amount of time the children were accessing the app to 20 minutes at one time. Even when we reduced the time, they were still learning an amazing amount.”
She hoped the new STEM app would deliver the same results as the ELLA trial. “Teaching children the hard science, technology, engineering and maths gives them rational reasoning ability, which makes them better critical thinkers and better equipped to negotiate their way through school,” she explained. “If the government can make a STEM app that is as much fun as the language app, I cannot think of a better thing for it to do.”
Birmingham said: “We hope the Early Learning STEM Australia app inspires the same curiosity and enthusiasm that the ELLA app has. Knowing that about 75 per cent of the fastest-growing industries require STEM-related skills, we want to work with Australia’s youngest minds to ensure they develop an interest in those fields.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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