Kids and our future

WindsorStar.com – news
September 7, 2010.   By Dalton McGuinty, Special to The Windsor Star

My wife Terri and I had four children in five years.

When our first baby was born, I was still in law school and my desk was the ironing board.

And it wasn’t until a few months after our second was born that I brought home my first paycheque from work.

Sometimes I wonder how we made it through those busy years, and how I ever managed to get any school work done, but we managed, somehow.

The remarkable thing about that story is just how common it is.

Right now, there are lots of Ontario families who are just as busy, or busier.

There are plenty of moms and dads who have little kids at home, busy jobs and aging parents to take care of. They want to make sure their kids get a great education because they know it’s the ladder to opportunity.

The way I see it, when those families succeed, we all succeed.

That’s why we’re launching the next part of our plan for Ontario’s schools. We’ve already lowered class sizes and improved test scores. This fall, we’re bringing full-day kindergarten to nearly 600 schools across Ontario for up to 35,000 of our youngest students — with more to come.

This is big.

For the first time ever, anywhere in North America, four- and five-year-olds will benefit from kindergarten all day, every day.

It means busy parents will have a new way to help balance their work and their family lives.

Above all, full-day kindergarten means that we will give more students the great start they need in school. Full-day kindergarten will give our youngest learners the head start they need on reading, writing and math — so they’re better prepared for all the grades that follow.

And, because we know a great education helps build opportunity later in life, it will help more young people break out of the cycle of poverty and achieve their full potential.

It’s about helping make things just a little bit easier for Ontario families.

It will help Ontarians like the Shelke family, from Windsor.

The dad, Yatin Shelke, said “Kindergarten is such an important step. It’s where kids go out and learn to be independent.”

They’re very excited that their young son, Senthil, will be going to full-day kindergarten this year. He’ll attend the same school as his sister who is a few years older.

The Shelkes are also happy that they’ll be able to drop both of their kids off at the same time and pick both of them up at the same time.

It’s going to make a difference, especially for their son.

While he’s at school, Senthil will develop language and math skills. He’ll stay active, which will keep him physically fit. He’ll do arts and crafts, which will help him be more creative. He’ll socialize and learn to get along with other kids. And Senthil will get to listen and learn from teachers and early childhood educators in a safe, structured environment.

All of this will lay the foundation for learning and help Senthil — and all our kids –make a smoother transition to Grade 1. It will help them succeed as they keep learning.

Launching full-day kindergarten is just one of the things our government has done since 2003 to help our kids be the best they can be. Working with teachers, parents and school boards, we’ve accomplished a lot.

The number of students in Grades 3 and 6 who meet the standards for reading, writing and math is up 14 percentage points since 2003.

More than 90 per cent of primary classes have 20 or fewer students today.

We’re one of the first provinces to mandate daily physical activity in elementary schools.

And 400 new publicly funded schools have been built, are under construction or are in the works. Moreover, students and families have benefited from labour stability in our schools.

Now is the time to build on those results in the early years. Kids who get more attention and learn the basics in reading, writing and math before Grade 3 will have a better start and a stronger foundation for future success.

Putting Ontario’s kids on track for future success at school, while making the day easier for hard-working Ontario parents, is the right thing to do. As a parent, and as premier, I’m proud of Ontarians for leading the way in this bold new change to our education system.

It’s just one more way we’re ensuring that Ontario remains what it has always been — the greatest province in the best country in the world.

Dalton McGuinty is Ontario’s premier.

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