More than 50 percent of children aged 2–4 years regularly attended an early childhood education program in 2014, up from 20 percent of children under the age of 5 identified in 2006. Expanded access to schooloperated programs accounts for much of the increase and builds on the infrastructure that already exists in public education. The Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island now offer full-day kindergarten for 5 year olds, with Newfoundland preparing for rollout in 2016.
Full-day kindergarten for 4 and 5 year olds now includes 265,000 children in Ontario, while the Northwest Territories is also expanding its full-day kindergarten program to include 4 year olds. Free access to at least part-time programs has expanded for preschoolers in vulnerable circumstances in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Québec. Nova Scotia is piloting universal programming for this age group.
Regulated childcare has also grown. Québec is expanding its system at the rate of 4,000 new spaces a year, while most provinces have made steady investments to expand enrolment. While there is greater provision of early childhood programming, it has not kept pace with the mini-baby boom hitting some jurisdictions, particularly in the Prairies. As such, while there are more ECE spaces, the percentage of children served has remained largely unchanged.
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