Jump to Main Content
Decrease font size Reset font size Increase font size
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto Home| OISE| U of T| Quercus| Site Map | Contact Us | Accessibility | Feeling Distressed?
INSPIRING EDUCATION | oise.utoronto.ca
Atkinson Centre

About Us > What We Do > Early Childhood Education Report 


Early Childhood Education Report ECER 2020 Report Cover


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 21 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

ECER 2020 Cover

The Early Childhood Education Report (2020)

The first round of investments from the federal government for early learning and child care had a big impact, finds the Early Childhood Education Report 2020. Ottawa’s small transfer of $500 million a year to provinces, territories and Indigenous partners prompted an overall growth in public spending of more than $3 billion between 2017 and 2020, adding 100,000 spaces to the child care supply across Canada.

The initiative was the first phase of Ottawa’s 2017, 10 year plan to grow child care access. In response to COVID-19, and the pandemic’s devastating impact on mothers in the workforce, the federal Liberals upped their involvement in Budget 2021, turning what had been an $7.5 billion commitment into $30 billion.

Released every three years by the Atkinson Centre, at the University of Toronto, the report provides a status update on federal, provincial and territorial early learning and child care initiatives. For the Report’s overview, profiles of federal investments and for each province and territory, as well as the methodology, presentation documents and previous reports please visit http://ecereport.ca/en/

ECER 2017 Report Cover

The Early Childhood Education Report (2017)






ECER 2014 Report Cover

The Early Childhood Education Report (2014)

To access resources from the launch of the Early Childhood Education Report click HERE




Early Years Study 4 Report Cover

Early Years Study 4 (2019)





Early Years Study 3 Report Cover

Early Years Study 3 (2011)





Early Years Study 2

Early Years Study 2 (2007)





Early Years Study 1 Report Cover

Early Years Study 1 (1999)




OISEcms v.1.0 | Site last updated: Friday, September 22, 2023 Disclaimer | Webmaster

© OISE University of Toronto
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6 CANADA