All-day kindergarten is a waste of money

NationalPost.com – Opinion/Full Comment
September 8, 2010.  Marni Soupcoff

When Ontario announced the introduction of all-day kindergarten in public schools, it did so under the guise of improving early learning opportunities for children; and Premier McGuinty continues to cast the program as a means to improve test scores and graduation rates. But the truth is that the main benefit of a longer kindergarten day is free childcare for working parents.

Which is fine, if that is what the government hopes to accomplish. However, they should come clean about what they are doing and why — an act that would allow costs to be cut by hiring qualified caregivers rather than qualified teachers for the added “school time.”

An even more efficient way to achieve the free child care would be to simply give parents the equivalent cash, to spent on the childcare arrangement of their choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there aren’t kids out there who could really use significant extra time, attention and help to get them ready for the rest of their education. It’s just that blanket all-day kindergarten for everybody isn’t the best (or even a very good) way to reach these struggling children.

As I argued in a column in March, kids from middle-and upper-class families are already getting enrichment at home and in carefully selected, parent-screened private nursery schools and day care centres, so publicly funding a system-wide change that includes them is a waste of a huge amount of money.

Meanwhile, the kids whose families not already naturally providing this kind of early educational groundwork need far more focused, intensive and specific help than all-day kindergarten or subsidized day care.

They need special programs geared not only toward teaching them basic skills, but also geared toward including their parents in the educational process so that learning and encouragement continue at home. It’s probably impossible to achieve significant improvements without regular home visits and consistent behavioral reinforcement. Sound expensive? It would be. Hugely. But at least money directed at such efforts would be better spent than the pointless exercise of paying for an extra half-day of babysitting — in large part for children who are well on track to meet educational goals and perform well as students. Also, at least such focused efforts would have a better shot at achieving some of the ambitious goals -— higher test scores, better graduation rates — that have been set for all-day kindergarten, but which there is no persuasive evidence that an extra half-day will accomplish.

In other words, if the Ontario government is set on spending an extra $1.5-billion a year on education, let’s at least insist that it uses that money intelligently and strategically in a way that has the best chance of helping the kids who are most in need of the extra resources.

National Post
msoupcoff@nationalpost

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1 Comment

  1. Agree!

    This program may somewhat benefit the working poor or the working but no stay at home mom.Every child is going to pass kindergarden regardless.

    I even have problems with what the public school’s do in the classroom. The educational assistant keeps flashing around her IPAD (thought screentime was bad for children) and making the children draw on it.Then my daughter told me they were serving juice,thought that was bad for children to.

    I pull my daughter out early and i feel horrible because i can tell it gets to her when i single her out, i figure i may as well leave her there not to embaress her but then again i think i won’t get these last afternoons with her at a young age back ever again plus she is only 4 right and it is not as if i sit her in front of a t.v. we do basically the same things she would do in a school setting arts and crafts,let her freeplay,go to the park,cooking… i don’t think i will ever regret it either because it won’t make any difference next year when she is first grade full time.

    She has the rest of her life to go to school full time and i would appreciate spending her last young years with her even just for the afternoons :) I only have one little one and honestly and sadly not sure if i will be blessed with anymore right now.

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