Of all the trends identified in ECE Report 2014, the single most noteworthy is the decision of policy-makers to at least maintain, if not grow, funding to early learning and care. Another $3 billion has been added to provincial/territorial early childhood budgets since 2011; this represents .6 percent of GDP. Still short of the 1.1 percent of GDP, representing the average for OECD spending on early education. This promising trend has not been the norm. Historically, governments have looked at funding for young children as expendable. It may be too early to say that early education has become an issue that is sticking with decisionmakers, but to date the news is promising.
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Policy-makers are also making better use of the existing infrastructure in public education to grow educational opportunities for young children. Whether it is through the direct provision of expanded kindergarten and prekindergarten, linking child care growth to schools or putting processes in place to smooth transitions for young children into the school system, the direction points to a deeper understanding of the needs of young children and their families.
Attention to quality is partnering with access, as jurisdictions enhance efforts to recruit and retain qualified early childhood educators and provide them with the tools they need for the important work they do.
Obviously much remains to be done. The split between education and care still frustrates children, families and service providers, and denies taxpayers that wonderful payback that comes from organizing early education so it also supports parents’ labour force participation.
While it is too early to celebrate, these promising patterns may be viewed with cautious optimism. With staged prudent investments and an eye on systems management, all young children could take their place in an early childhood program in the decade to come.
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