It’s based on a pilot program started at The Bruce WoodGreen Early Learning Centre in Bruce Junior School. The program will be rolled out throughout Ontario this fall.
Children attend a “seamless, full-day kindergarten program”. This includes early morning daycare beginning at 7:30 a.m., morning and afternoon class (with lunch held in the classroom) and then after-school care until 6 p.m., all in the same place.
Why is it being implemented?
Studies have shown that effective early learning programs can lead to better school preparedness, success in school, likelihood of graduation and post-secondary studies, social adjustment, health, longevity and engagement in society.
“The research has told us one very important thing about education—the earlier, the better.”
–Dr. Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.
Does my child have to partake?
There are a variety of options for parents to choose from as far as the care their child gets, from the more traditional half-day kindergarten to the extended-day program.
Are all schools implementing the program?
The program will be implemented in stages, with up to 35,000 students enrolling in September 2010. It will be fully phased in by 2015. Schools for the first stage were selected by the province based on space, need and the impact on existing local childcare, among other factors.
Are any other cities or provinces implementing the program?
Some provinces have similar directions in mind, but Ontario will become the only province or state in North America providing a seamless full-day, extended-day program for all four-and five-year-olds.
What will the classroom look like?
A certified teacher and an ECE will work side by side for the full-day program. The idea is that they each bring a set of skills to the table; ECE’s bring a well-developed knowledge of children’s cognitive development and social, emotional and behavioural needs, while teachers bring the expertise necessary to prepare lesson plans and properly deliver the provincial curriculum. This adds to the seamlessness of the program as some experts believe that having these two educators working together, in tandem, is much better than having one teach part of the day, then hand the baton to the other.
As well, education minister Kathleen Wynne says that play-based learning will continue, and that “schoolification”—a term that describes takeover of early childhood education by school, and the grading, desks, memorization and other elements that come with it—will not occur.
Will all schools implement the program the same way?
It will most likely be implemented differently from board to board due to the fact that local trustees and administrators will largely be shaping how their respective programs run.
Is there a downside to this program?
Critics point to the fact that, once the program is fully implemented, it will cost $1.5 billion per year to maintain. Some argue the price is actually higher.
Others are concerned with issues that may arise from the discrepancy in pay between the teachers and ECEs, asking whether they can truly work as equals in the classroom when the teacher is paid significantly more than the ECE.
As well, unlike the pilot program, there is no childcare provision for periods with extended breaks, such as the March Break and summer vacation. This could, as a result, create a rush for daycare spots during those periods.
Other remaining issues to be resolved include the fact that the ministry of education will not guarantee that the program and childcare will all take place in one room. And though Wynne says it’s their goal, they can’t guarantee that the same teacher and ECE will always work together in the same classroom. Also, it’s still unclear how specialty programs such as French Immersion and alternative schools will be incorporated into the program. And while the school-day portion of the program will be fully funded, the before and after school portions will require parents to pay a “reasonable fee”.
However, proponents of the program urge parents to consider the hundreds of dollars each month they could save on childcare costs. Furthermore, the hassle of of picking a child up and transporting them from school to daycare, or paying for that service, is alleviated by having all the services under one roof.