Challenging the ‘old normal’: Privatisation in Aotearoa’s early childhood care and education sector

  • Caitlin Neuwelt
  • Jenny Ritchie


There is unequivocal evidence of the importance of quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) in providing foundational learning experiences and whānau support. Yet, in Aotearoa New Zealand, unlike the compulsory schooling sector, ECCE is provided under a market-based model, with services having become increasingly delivered by the private sector. This paper discusses recent trends in ECCE provision, highlighting three key concerns. First, current policy settings are encouraging homogenisation of service provision by favouring teacher-led, centre-based ECCE, threatening the viability of models such as Kōhanga Reo, Pacific Language Nests and Playcentre. Second, increasing privatisation over the last two decades is undermining our ability to ensure early learners are receiving a high-quality education, since for-profit services tend to provide poorer quality services. Third, the expansion of for-profit provision is exacerbating inequities in access to high-quality ECCE in Aotearoa. We conclude by arguing for stricter regulation – such as a requirement that all teaching staff are registered, qualified teachers – and the bolstering of diverse, community-based models of ECCE by implementing higher funding bands for not-for-profit services.

Peer Reviewed Articles