Canada’s early education system needs more financial support from the federal government. As a result, a new report calls on the federal government to spend more on universal early childhood education.
The report was released on Thursday by the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation; it revealed that Canada ranks almost at the bottom of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries; 33rd out of 35 – for the number of children aged 5 and younger who regularly attend an early childhood education program. That means only one in two children attend a program.
The Early Years Study 4: Thriving Kids, Thriving Society also reported on the problem. Canada would need to increase its spending up to $20-billion annually. Otherwise, it won’t be able to reach the average OECD enrolment level of 70 per cent. It calls on the federal government to spend an additional $1-billion a year until the shortfall is covered. Besides, it said that up until now, the provinces and territories have been carrying the bulk of the costs.
Canada’s early education affects economy
Noteworthy, Canada can’t compete economically unless it does something to better educate and prepare its children to function in the world.
Currently, there is a patchwork system of child care across the country, from home daycares to centres. The parents have to pay thousands of dollars. In Ontario, a growing shortage of spaces has left many parents placing their names on waiting lists before their babies are even born.
Fraser Mustard, a researcher in early childhood development, has released reports on strengthening Canada’s early childhood education system. For example, one of them led to the creation of full-day kindergarten in Ontario. This is a model program where four-year-olds and five-year-olds learn in a play-based setting led by a teacher and an early childhood educator.
The new report cited one 2017 study that found that every $1 spent on expanding enrolment in early childhood education led to a $6 return in long-term economic benefits. Ms. McCain said there are also social benefits, which include reducing poverty and keeping people away from the criminal justice system.
She envisions a publicly funded, publicly managed system of early childhood education centres; it would act as an extension of the public education system for children starting at the age of 2.
And the solution?
“The best way to deliver what children need in this very critical period of their development is through the public system and equalizing opportunities for all children, and I emphasize all,” she said.
She added: “We have talked with governments from all parties. Political stripes never come into it because it boils down to this is something that we need to do for our people. There is great interest. It is a matter of finding the money, finding the support.”