The Early Childhood Education Report 2017 is the third assessment of provincial and territorial frameworks for early childhood education in Canada. Nineteen benchmarks, organized into five equally weighted categories, evaluate governance structures, funding levels, access, quality in early learning environments and the rigour of accountability mechanisms.
Results are populated from detailed provincial and territorial profiles developed by the researchers and reviewed by provincial and territorial officials. Researchers and officials co-determine the benchmarks assigned. We are pleased to welcome Nunavut and Yukon as new participants in this edition. This website includes the profiles for each jurisdiction, including the federal government, plus the methodology that shapes the report, references, charts and figures and materials from past reports.
A trend is emerging in early childhood education. As a country, we are recognizing that early education is beneficial for children, for families, for everyone. It is why provinces and territories have focused more attention on programs for preschoolers, and why the federal government is prepared to invest billions of dollars over the coming decade.
The benefits of quality, well-designed early childhood education programs are well-documented. For children they include enhanced academic and socio-emotional competencies, contributing to increased earnings and better health and social behaviour as adults.
Social benefits are derived from early education’s role as a job creator in its own right, while supporting parents to work or upgrade their skills. This in turn reduces the draw on incometested programs and the inequalities that result from poverty.
ECE is also a highly effective platform for early identification and intervention,. By addressing problems early, special education costs are reduced. In a country highly dependent on immigration, early education acts as a settlement program.
Economic studies calculate the cost-to-benefit ratio from spending on early education at between $2 and $7 returned for every $1 spent, depending on the population studied.
Most importantly, early education programs offer young children their own space and place to be children.More than a dozen terms are used to describe programs designed for children before they begin formal schooling. This report uses “early childhood education” or the abbreviated “ECE.” ECE refers to programs for young children based on an explicit curriculum, delivered by qualified staff and designed to support children’s development and learning. Attendance is regular and children may participate on their own or with their parents or caregivers. It includes child care, but also schooloperated kindergarten and prekindergarten programs, as well as Aboriginal Head Start and parent and child programs. The Early Childhood Education Report (ECER) views ECE as an entitlement for every young child regardless of where they live, their abilities, their language and origins, or parental occupation.The ECER was developed out of the policy lessons emerging from the twenty-country review of early education and care programs1 conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).The OECD provided a prescription for countries to improve their early childhood services:
Finally, the OECD noted there was no common monitoring mechanism across Canada’s 13 jurisdictions to assure Canadians of the value of their investments. The ECER was developed to fill this void. Established in 2011 as part of the Early Years Study 3,2 the ECER is released every three years. It provides an accessible means of tracking and communicating the status of early childhood education across Canadian jurisdictions.The ECER is organized around the five categories highlighted by the OECD: governance, funding, access, learning environments and accountability. Each category is equally weighted around 19 benchmarks to form a common set of minimum criteria necessary for the delivery of quality programming. Thresholds for each benchmark reflect Canadian reality. Each has been achieved in at least one Canadian jurisdiction. As such, they are not aspirational goals, but rather minimum standards. The data sources and rationale for the benchmarks are summarized in the methodology and supplemented by profiles of each province and territory, as well as a review of federal policies impacting ECE.
Early Childhood Education Report Benchmarks of Quality
ECER 2017 is particularly timely. The federal government has returned to early education and child care after a decade’s absence, flowing new investments shaped by a ten-year intergovernmental framework.3 Federal funds are made available to provinces and territories through bilateral agreements spanning three years. The next edition of the ECER is scheduled for 2020, coinciding with the renewal of the bilateral agreements. Evidence from the first phase of the agreements will be essential to shaping the next.
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1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2006). Starting Strong II: Early childhood education and care. Paris: OECD.2 McCain, M. N., Mustard, J. F., & McCuaig, K. (2011). Early Years Study 3: Making decisions, taking action. Toronto, ON.3 Federal-Provincial/Territorial Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, July 2017.
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