As Parliament debates whether child care means forcing parents “to have other people raise their children,” 22 the provinces have been experimenting with public education to expand early learning opportunities. Education enjoys widespread public confidence, 23 and using our largely underutilized schools is smarter and less costly than creating an entirely new program from the ground up. Full-day kindergarten, which is either in place or starting up in a number of provinces, makes a natural link to child care. If parental leave is extended from the current one year to 18 months, it would be relatively easy to bridge the gap between parental leave and school. Quebec has grasped this concept by enriching its parental leave and expanding educational child care for preschoolers. Full-day kindergarten begins at age 5, and school boards are required to provide out-ofschool care for children up to age 12.
Creating an early childhood system linked to public education was introduced in Early Years Study 2 (2007) and elaborated on in a 2009 Ontario report. With Our Best Future in Mind 24 envisions the transformation of elementary schools into child and family centres, welcoming infants to adolescents and operating year-round. It pleads with all concerned to break down their legislative, administrative and funding silos, and leave territorial and professional jealousies behind. The report argues that all the elements exist in the hodgepodge of child care, public health, education and family support services to create a consolidated program that can actually work for families.
Next: 5. One-in-four start out disadvantaged
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