We need to turn our family policy junkyard into a human development system. By viewing the school as a family centre not only for students during the school day, but also for families during non-school hours, we can have an early childhood system that responds to the new Canadian mother and her children, as well as the expectant mother, the at-home father and dual-income professionals and their children.
What are the features of family-centred schools that welcome babies to adolescents?
Our proposals for family-centred schools may be misinterpreted as denigrating the contributions of the health and child care sectors to children and families. Rather, we start from the considerable international evidence in choosing education as the base upon which to grow an early childhood system. Education is unambiguous. It is about children—all children. From this universal and well-established platform, a modern understanding that learning begins at birth and continues throughout life can be grown. There is no need to reinvent the wheel—education already comes with a strong infrastructure (financing, training, curriculum, data collection, evaluation and research).60
Parents demonstrate their trust in education by sending their children to school. Among our Anglo- American counterparts, Canada has the highest enrolment in publicly funded education.61 Parent confidence is well-founded. Our public schools have produced political leaders, Supreme Court judges, recipients of the Order of Canada and cultural and scientific icons. Schools have helped to prepare children born here and abroad to participate in shaping a democracy that is pluralistic and respectful. Early childhood programming provides an opportunity to transform schools into vibrant family centres that welcome children and families before, during and after the school bell rings.
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