Canada Must Invest More in Early Childhood Education, Says New Report

By McCuaig, Kerry; Fellow et al. | The Canadian Press, February 7, 2018 | Go to article overview

Canada Must Invest More in Early Childhood Education, Says New Report


McCuaig, Kerry, Fellow, Centre, Atkinson, Institute, Ontario, Toronto, University of, The Canadian Press


Canada must invest more in early childhood education, says new report

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Kerry McCuaig, Fellow in Early Childhood Policy, Atkinson Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

A trend is emerging in education in Canada: We are recognizing that early childhood education is beneficial for children, for families, for everyone.

Provinces and territories are focusing more attention on programs for preschoolers and the federal government is prepared to invest billions of dollars in child care in the coming decade.

The Early Childhood Education Report 2017, released today by my colleagues and I at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, shows that Canada has made great strides since a 2004 study by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) exposed the country as a policy laggard.

Our report finds more than half of Canadian youngsters now attend an early education program before starting school. Governments are paying more attention to what goes on inside programs, with a focus on children's safety and caregiver training, and schools are stepping up to offer more programs for preschoolers.

At the same time, the report underscores ongoing challenges for community-based child care.

National early learning program

In the OECD's damning study, Canada came last in a review of early education across 20 member states. Our children were least likely to attend an early childhood education (ECE) program, and those offered were under-resourced and mediocre.

There is nothing like international shame to focus the mind of children's advocates and, ultimately, policy makers.

The federal government responded with a national plan for early learning and child care, which had the provinces cutting ribbons on new childcare centres. In 2006, the Harper government came in with its own ideas about child care and the fledgling initiative ended. Dumped by their federal partner, the provinces nevertheless soldiered on.

By 2014, a cross-country scan of early childhood services found the provinces and territories reaching a number of benchmarks, based on the OECD's prescription to improve their standing.

That year spending jumped to $10.7 billion, from $2.5 billion in 2004. More kids were attending early learning programs and their quality was improving.

Prince Edward Island ranks first

The Early Childhood Education Report 2017 (ECER 2017) is the third and latest study to assess Canada's early childhood services against OECD benchmarks that define government oversight, funding, access, program quality and the rigour of accountability mechanisms.

The results are calculated from detailed provincial and territorial profiles compiled by the researchers and reviewed by government officials. Researchers and officials co-determine the scores.

Prince Edward Island ranks first in ECER 2017, with 11 points out of a maximum of 15. The lowest score, at five points, is from Nunavut. The average score is eight.

Investments in young children flat-lined

While jurisdictions added to their ECE budgets -- spending $11.7 billion in 2017 -- as a percentage of overall spending, allocations for young children have flat-lined since the last assessment in 2014.

Quebec remained steady, devoting 4.4 per cent of its 2107 budget to early education, while Nunavut, with the largest proportion of children under five, spent only 0. …

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