The reach of early childhood education (ECE) is broad, including the education, care and wellbeing of young children. Early education is also central to family policy and is associated with economic development and productivity. It is linked to a range of equity issues, including women’s employment, work and family balance, anti-poverty strategies, the promotion of social cohesion and the settlement of new Canadians.
Reviews of early childhood education in Canada have traditionally focused on counting child care spaces and funding levels. Research has either evaluated child outcomes or the quality of programs offered. Until the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 2004 review of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Canada, there had not been an extensive evaluation of the policy frameworks that shape the environments in which service providers operate and small children learn and are nurtured. The ECE Report was designed to fill this gap.Reflecting on the main recommendation of the Early Years Study 3—that all children should have access to high quality early childhood education—the ECE Report focuses on indicators promoting this goal. Early Childhood Education Report 2017 is the third status update on the policy frameworks that support quality and access in early education services. The report defines ECE as programs for young children based on an explicit curriculum delivered by qualified staff and designed to support children’s development and learning. Settings may include parent/child centres, childcare centres, nursery schools, preschools, pre- or junior kindergarten, and kindergarten. Attendance is regular and children may participate on their own or with a parent or caregiver. When organized to support parents’ labour force participation, ECE can also be a very cost-effective policy leaver returning socio-economic benefits greater than the service costs.
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