children playing

Child care report card

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Hoffman, John
Publication Date: 
1 May 2004

Magazine issue available in print (see SOURCE) and online.

Excerpts from article:

Imagine you're moving from Winnipeg to St. John's. That means a new school for your eight-year-old and a new daycare for your toddler. You figure grade three is grade three anywhere in Canada, right? At the very least, you'd expect more similarities than differences between provinces in things like curriculum standards, teacher training and government funding. Make the same assumptions about daycare and you'd be dead wrong. You almost certainly wouldn't know, for example, that, child for child, Manitoba spends triple the amount on daycare that Newfoundland spends. Or that Ontario requires two years of early childhood education (ECE) training for a certain number of staff in each centre, while New Brunswick has no minimum training requirements. Or that PEI allows one caregiver to look after only three one-year-olds, while Quebec sets the number at five. One proviso &emdash; a big one, actually. We're going to admit right up front that the data are not as good as we'd like. Some of the figures come from 2001 and the rest from 1998. In a few key areas &emdash; including the physical state of child care facilities and the content of programs &emdash; there simply aren't any numbers. That means nobody is tracking fundamental things like the range of activities kids are exposed to, the amount of outdoor playtime, the state of the toys and equipment. In fact, an important subtext to this story is to ask: Why don't we have better information on the quality of child care in Canada? That said, we're confident about the information we used. Every fact and figure has been scrutinized for its reliability and comparability by expert researchers. Here's what we found: The variances between school systems are hairline cracks beside the yawning crevasses that divide provinces on child care policy and practice.