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OISE's Atkinson Centre releases report on early childhood education in Canada

November 13, 2014


The Early Childhood Education Report 2014: It's Time for Preschool, released yesterday by the Atkinson Centre at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto reveals that Canada’s provinces and territories have improved programs to help children learn and develop.

The report – a second status update in three years—provides a snapshot of provincial and territorial performance based on a variety of criteria, including investments in and children's access to early education and child care programs. The report also compares Canada's results to other developed economies.

"Although Canadian provinces and territories have increased spending to enhance their preschool programs, access remains uneven and Canada continues to spend much less than its peers," says report co-author, Kerry McCuaig, Fellow in Early Childhood Policy at the Atkinson Centre.

In 2006, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed Canada way behind on policy. Of the 34 OECD countries, Canada came last in access to preschool. Since then, results for each province have steadily improved, with some provinces leaping forward.

"There has been some real progress," said co-author Dr. Emis Akbari, a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Atkinson Centre. "Across Canada, 58 percent of 2 to 4-year olds now regularly attend a preschool, but this is still short of the 80 percent attendance rate set by the OECD."

When the first Early Childhood Education Report was released in 2011, only three Canadian jurisdictions made it past the halfway mark on the report's 15-point scale. Today, Quebec and Prince Edward Island are tied for first place with 10 points, while four other provinces—New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia—scored above 7. The other provinces and the Northwest Territories range between 4.5 and 6.5 points.

“Spending across the country will reach almost $11-billion this year. Preschool pays for itself through the taxes paid by parents and reduced spending on social programs,” says Ms. McCuaig.

“Ultimately, preschool is good for kids, families and the economy,” says Dr. Akbari. “Studies show that children who attend preschool have a better vocabulary, have improved impulse control and are more accepting of cultural diversity.”