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31 Jan, Tuesday
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Montreal Families

Should there be formal education for 2-year-olds?

Early childhood education should be accessible to all Canadian children as of the age of 2, according to a recent report. In The Early Years Study 3, the authors suggest replacing the current patchwork of public and private daycares, preschools and family care with something more comprehensive such as “publicly funded preschool education for all 2- to 5-year-olds. It would be available, affordable, top-quality and voluntary.”

The Early Years Study now includes three reports that show the importance of early childhood education to a child’s future success; the previous reports were instrumental in paving the way for full-day kindergarten in Ontario.

Authors Dr. J. Fraser Mustard (who died in November), the Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain and Kerry McCuaig say they envision a system where schools can become the centre of the community for families.

The three Early Years studies suggest that if we truly wish to provide our children with an equal opportunity to maximize their potential, it is vital that we do everything we can to enhance their early development. The authors say that children who attend top-notch daycares fare better in elementary and high school and have better social relationships. Excellent daycares should provide stimulating learning situations, well-trained staff, good nutrition, an inclusive, friendly environment and opportunities for parents to be involved.

But until governments commit to such an ambitious plan, the authors say parents and community leaders must continue to advocate for improved daycare services.

The study also introduced the Early Childhood Index, a tool that examines the state of early education across the provinces. Three provinces passed the halfway mark on the 15-point scale with Quebec scoring a 10, followed by PEI with 9.5 and Manitoba with 7.5. The authors say there has been progress over the years as three years ago, only Quebec would have received a passing grade.

The report showed that:

  • Since the first study in 2007, the  number of provinces offering full-day kindergarten has gone from three to six.
  • Government spending for child care has doubled in the past seven years.
  • Participation in early childhood education has more than doubled, from 20 per cent in 2004 to 52 per cent in 2011.

For a copy of the study, visit http://earlyyearsstudy.ca/.

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