Today our younger neighbors to the north will be celebrating their nation's birthday with parades and fireworks and maple-leaf flags. This year, kids in Ontario have something else to celebrate: the province is embarking on an ambitious strategy to expand early education access and better align child care, pre-k and elementary programs.
With Our Best Future in Mind, a new report commissioned by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and written by Early Learning Advisor Dr. Charles Pascal, maps out a major reorganization and expansion of early education services in the province. The report calls for expansion of full-day junior kindergarten (pre-k) and senior kindergarten classes (most are currently half-day programs). It also calls for Ontario to integrate day care for children up to age 4 , junior and senior kindergarten, and primary education from grades 1 through 6 in order to create a "continuum of services for children from birth to age 12." It encourages early educators to develop a "common programming framework for all of Ontario's early childhood settings," so that children experience similar curriculum and quality standards regardless of where they are served. And it recommends expanded parental leave, quality child care, support programs for the youngest children, and optional extended day programs for school-age children. Most of these programs could go into effect as soon as 2010, but with a longer timeline for expanding parental leave: the move would require significant changes in legislation, which Pascal expects by 2020.