CANBERRA, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) has announced a 1.7- billion-Australian dollar (1.2-billion-U.S. dollar) plan to subsidize early education for three-year-old children.
Under the proposal the ALP will extend the existing 15 hours per week of subsidized pre-school for four-year-olds to three-year-olds if victorious at the upcoming general election.
Announcing the plan on Thursday, ALP leader Bill Shorten described it as "the biggest change to Australia's education system in a generation."
The incumbent government funds subsidized education for four-year-olds on a year-by-year basis but Shorten's policy guarantees long-term funding.
"This is an economic and social reform as profound as lifting the school leaving age and opening up universal access to universities," Shorten said on Thursday.
"This reform will see two years of early childhood education permanently embedded into our education system, in recognition of the importance of the early years of a child's life."
He said that it would "help close the gaps created by disadvantage" and "help tackle the inequality faced by children born into low-income households who are currently denied educational opportunities that their peers may have."
"Under Labor, Australian children will have access to at least 15 years of continuous education from the age of three to 18 years old," Shorten said.
The policy announcement was the first of five that Shorten is expected to make before the end of 2018 in the lead-up to the election, which is expected to take place in May 2019.
The spending policies will be paid for by the ALP's high-tax agenda, which includes reversing the government's sweeping income tax cuts.