Looking at Canada’s Early Childhood Education Model
The value of early childhood (EC) educators has rarely been one well rewarded from a monetary perspective, but it often seems to also be the forgotten arm of education from a national perspective. Rarely do headlines or the media focus on the impact these educators have on the youngest members of our society. On a recent trip to Vaughan, Ontario Canada, Kent State Salem’s Associate Professor Dr. Tsung-Hui Tu and Assistant Dean Dr. Celeste Oprean visited several daycare centers across the northern Toronto region, from private to public facilities. They were also introduced to the higher educational system for EC education at Seneca College on the King Campus.
The trip was arranged through the gracious support of Human Endeavors and created a wonderful learning opportunity for the Kent representatives, leading them to agree that the programs they witnessed should be closely monitored by the U.S. educational system.
The current structure for early childhood education in Canada includes two levels of kindergarten classrooms: junior and senior kindergarten, which is currently not a mandatory education level in Ontario Educational System (OES). According to Pam Leavere, director of the Child Development Center at Seneca College, Ontario, by next September, kindergartens in the Province of Ontario will be required to have a registered early childhood educator working with each primary instructor. The OES kindergarten setting will consist of a team of two trained instructors in each classroom, one teacher trained in primary education and the other trained in early childhood education. The registered early childhood teachers must each have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. This change will help the OES provide higher quality programs for young children. For more information about changes to the kindergarten programs in Ontario, visit the Ontario’s Ministry of Education website at www.edu.gov.on.ca.
In the Ontario daycare centers which Tu and Oprean visited, the teachers use emergent curriculum which is a child-centered, Reggio Emilia approach. “No longer will the teacher incorporate rote learning techniques for delivering arithmetic, colors and the alphabet,” Tu explained. “Instead, children in preschools and kindergartens will learn the alphabet, colors, arithmetic and more through play and interaction in areas of interest.”
In the U.S., kindergarten is mandatory education, and the structure of the classroom is often similar to first through sixth grades. Enhancing kindergarten readiness and the kindergarten transition process have been discussed greatly in the United States.
“It will be worth investigating how Canadian educators are preparing children to transition from kindergarten to first grade in the Ontario Education System,” Oprean said. “We would like to know whether they face any challenges with ‘first grade readiness’ and ‘first grade transition,’ as well as how they work with families and community partners to help children in this transition.”
Tina Smith, 330-337-4247, firstname.lastname@example.org