The Ontario government is lowering standards for children under the age of 6 with the introduction of all day kindergarten.
As a parent you need to make an informed decision. One of the first questions parents ask when looking for nursery school or child care is “What is your ratio?” All the parent books, magazines and experts tell you that is an important question and it is. If you understand and care about class size in preschool a logical assumption is that you should care about class size one year later. Young children- and some are still 3 in JK do not mature so quickly that suddenly they can manage with double or triple the ratios. Children of this age still need gentle guidance and support in order to succeed.
The lower standards under the Education Act include an “average” class size of 26 children, with up to 30 children in a classroom setting, with one teacher and one ECE. By contrast under the Day Nurseries Act (DNA) which governs all children in Ontario under the age of 6 it legislates that no more than 24 children are allowed to be in one classroom. Traditionally children under the age of 6 were in Day Care Centers or Nursery Schools. In this classroom there are 3 staff present. If any school licensed under the DNA were to go by the new guidelines announced by the Ontario government it would be shut down by the same government. A double standard is now being introduced.
Early Childhood Educators are specifically trained to work with children from the age of 6 and under. We are required to be certified. We consider ourselves teachers, not babysitters or caregivers.
The DNA ensures that all children’s needs are being met with the small child to teacher ratios. When the standards were set they were based on studies that showed that early learning occurred with small groups of children in the presence of professionals trained in child development. Qualities for these professionals included not only academic excellence but also nurturing personalities.
Nutrition is an important part of your developing child’s day. Under the DNA daycares and nursery schools are required to provide nourishing and balanced lunches and snacks. Children in kindergarten classes still require help washing or sanitizing their hands, opening their snacks, pouring their drinks and even encouragement to finish their food. In all day kindergarten who will feed, and clean your child? Lunch room supervision is not done by teachers and often children are rushed through their lunches for outdoor play. Children in older grades are not required to wash their hands before eating and must be able to open containers and packages themselves.
The government talks about early learning and meeting families needs with the introduction of all day kindergarten. When JK was introduced province wide in the early 90’s it was said that it was to help all children and would improve quality in education.The first class of JK children have just finished Grade 12 in 2009. Last year the literacy rate for high school students in Ontario was 70%. Putting children into school without proper guidelines so that real learning can occur will only continue to produce mediocre students. Just look at the multitude of centers who tutor JK to Grade 12 students in learning how to read. Children will be no further ahead going to school all day long in JK and SK with such high numbers of students. It will be a long and noisy day. Ontario is the first government in North America to implement this kind of program. They are calling it progressive. We think it is regressive. When you think of overcrowded classrooms you usually think of third world countries, not your young child’s school experience in Ontario.
There are schools in Brampton that have more than 10 kindergarten classes on site. Think about the number of young children in one building. If you do the math there could be upwards of three hundred children ages 3, 4 and 5 with perhaps 20 adults in kindergarten alone. We know each class will have students with learning and behavior disabilities as well. How would the adults be able to respond in an emergency? Under the DNA schools such as daycares and nursery schools are required to have fire drills once a month.
Under the DNA play grounds and classrooms must be fitted for each child to have enough space to have adequate movement. Be proactive and check out the playground structures at your local school. The standards are much lower.
What do the colleges and universities say? Those teaching Early Childhood Education are against all day kindergarten in the way it is being implemented. Young children deserve quality, care and small ratios in their first six years. Habits are formed, and life lessons are learned.
The government is going to spend more than a BILLION dollars a year to implement a poorly run program. Who does all day school benefit? Demographics tell us school enrollments are shrinking due to smaller families. Smaller enrollments have meant layoffs of teachers in most boards. All day kindergarten protects teacher jobs. The Teachers Federation does not want ECE’s teaching in the kindergarten class. Your children deserve better. I encourage you to let the government know how you feel.
Informed parents will demand the government make decisions based on what is right for young children. Take the time to email Premier Dalton McGuinty and copy your local MPP.