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Early Childhood Education Report
 

The Early Childhood Education Report: Moving beyond counting spaces and towards quality ECE systems

The reach of early childhood education is broad, including the education, care and well-being of young children. However, early education is also central to family policy and is associated with economic development and productivity. It is linked to a range of equity issues, including women’s employment, anti-poverty strategies, the promotion of social cohesion and the settlement of new Canadians.

Reflecting the main recommendation of the Early Years Study 3 (EYS 3)—that all children from age 2 through to elementary school have access to high quality, early childhood education—the Early Childhood Education Report focuses on indicators promoting this goal. Released every three years, it provides a status update on the policy frameworks across Canada that the evidence indicates supports quality and access.

Reviews of early childhood education in Canada have traditionally focused on counting child care spaces and per capita funding levels. Research has either evaluated child outcomes or the quality of programs offered. The ECER provides a means of tracking the policies that influence quality in the environments where small children learn and are nurtured.

The report uses “early childhood education” or the abbreviated “ECE.” ECE refers to programs for young children based on an explicit curriculum, delivered by qualified staff and designed to support children’s development and learning. Attendance is regular and children may participate on their own or with their parents or caregivers. It includes child care, but also school operated kindergarten and prekindergarten programs, as well as Aboriginal Head Start and parent and child programs.
 

Developing the Report

The ECER was developed out of the policy lessons emerging from the twenty-country review of early education and care programs1 conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD provided a prescription for countries to improve their early childhood services:

  • Pay attention to governance. Responsibility for services for young children are scattered among different departments. Give one ministry the lead and hold it accountable.
  • Spend more, but spend wisely. Children need good early years services, while economies needs working parents. Organize ECE to meet the needs of both.
  • Expand access, but do not take short cuts with quality. Poor quality services harm children and waste financial resources.
  • Invest in the workforce. It needs better training and care. Give it the same level of leadership, career opportunities and resources that are provided to public school teachers.
  • Build in accountability. Ensure evaluation and research are conducted to keep abreast with the burgeoning science and changing social needs.

Finally, the OECD noted there was no common monitoring mechanism across Canada’s 13 jurisdictions to assure Canadians of the value of their investments. The ECER was developed to fill this void. It provides an accessible means of tracking and communicating the status of early childhood education across Canadian jurisdictions.

The ECER is organized around the five categories highlighted by the OECD: governance, funding, access, learning environments and accountability. Each category is equally weighted around 19 benchmarks to form a common set of minimum criteria necessary for the delivery of quality programming. Thresholds for each benchmark reflect Canadian reality. Each has been achieved in at least one Canadian jurisdiction. As such, they are not aspirational goals, but rather minimum standards. The data sources and rationale for the benchmarks are summarized in the methodology and supplemented by profiles of each province and territory, as well as a review of federal policies impacting ECE.

 

The Reports

 

ECER2017

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