Though kindergarden for four-year-olds is an educational and preventive measure that remains relevant today for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not frequent any other education service, its universal implementation is unnecessary. Over time, Québec has developed a proven and unique childcare education model that Quebecers are proud of.
A variety of public services are now available and meet the needs of four-year-olds and their families: home childcare providers, childcare centres, kindergarten for four-year-olds from underpriledged backgrounds (full-time or part-time), and the Passe-Partout1 program. What’s more is that these services are provided by qualified personnel committed to the development of children.
Furthermore, both childcare workers and teachers in full-time kindergarten for four-year-olds work to identify the developmental vulnerabilities of young children. The government’s argument that universal kindergarten for four-year-olds would enable to identify difficulties early on simply does not hold water.
The government plans on making a considerable investment in its universal kindergarten program for four-year-olds. As such, the plan would run $400-$700 million per year, without counting infrastructure costs. Rather than being stubborn about it, the government should use these amounts to improve existing services by focusing on the right priorities.
- Creating enough spots in the public network of early childhood education services.
- Hire enough professional and support personnel to identify children at risk and take charge of them rapidly.
- Review the size of full-time kindergarten classes forfour-year-olds in underpriviledged neighbourhoods.
- Provide full-time kindergarten classes for four-year-olds in underpriviledged neighbourhoods with physical resources and materials adapted to four-year-olds.
- Ensure a better transition between early childhood and school, notably with the help of navigators responsible for coordinating the actions of each person during this very important stage.
- Improve the Passe-Partout program.
In summary, there is no shortage of priorities! And yet, the government insists on going ahead with this project. During the coming weeks and months, CSQ will continue to condemn the bill during consultations in parliamentary committee, among others. We will be there to push the government to focus on the right priorities.
1 The Passe-Partout program, overseen by the ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, focuses on supporting the parenting abilities of families whose children are entering school.