Expanding Early Childhood Education and Care Programming:
Highlights of a Literature Review, and Public Policy Implications
for British Columbia
Hillel Goelman, Lynell Anderson, Paul Kershaw and Janet Mort
About the Human Early Learning Partnership
The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) is an interdisciplinary collaborative research institute that is
directing a world-leading contribution to new understandings of and approaches to early child development.
Directed by Dr. Clyde Hertzman, HELP is a partnership of over 200 faculty, researchers and graduate
students from six BC universities:
• University of British Columbia
• University of Victoria
• Simon Fraser University
• University of Northern British Columbia
• University of British Columbia Okanagan
• Thompson Rivers University
HELP’s mission is to create, promote and apply knowledge through interdisciplinary research to help
Human Early Learning Partnership Tel: 604-822-1278
University of British Columbia Fax: 604-822-0640
4th floor, Library processing Centre Email: email@example.com
2206 East Mall Website: www.earlylearning.ubc.ca
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3 Mapping Portal: ecdportal.help.ubc.ca
Table of Contents
About the Human Early Learning Partnership ................................................................................................ i
1) Our Approach to the Literature Review ..................................................................................................... 2
2) The Public Policy Context of the Literature Review................................................................................... 2
3) ECEC Programs in Other Jurisdictions...................................................................................................... 4
4) The Current BC Context for the Literature Review .................................................................................... 5
5) Key Issues................................................................................................................................................. 7
5.1) “School readiness” and other Child Development Outcomes in ECEC Programs .............................. 7
5.2) Parental Preferences regarding ECEC Programs ............................................................................ 10
5.3 Inclusion and diversity ....................................................................................................................... 10
5.4) Program Expansion and Integration of Education and Care............................................................. 12
5.5) Development of a Comprehensive ECEC Strategy .......................................................................... 14
1. Key to achieving BC’s great goals .................................................................................................. 15
2. Increases opportunities for a broader range of groups to support new programming. .................... 15
3. Incorporates existing expertise, foundational supports and community commitment, likely
increasing the economic efficiency and effectiveness of implementation. ...................................... 16
6) Public Policy Implications of the Literature Review.................................................................................. 19
We acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of
Education in preparing the literature review on which these highlights are based, and note that
the information we have provided does not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of
Expanding Early Childhood Education and Care Programming:
Highlights of a Literature Review, and Public Policy Implications
for British Columbia
Hillel Goelman, Lynell Anderson, Paul Kershaw and Janet Mort
Should British Columbia invest more public funds into early education and care programs for young
children? The research strongly suggests that the answer is a resounding “yes” – with a caveat. Early
childhood education and care programs can provide positive developmental outcomes for children and they
can support families, no matter what the “label” of the program is: kindergarten, pre-kindergarten, daycare,
child care, preschool, early learning, etc. However, early childhood education and care programs only
work if the underlying public policy and investments promote high quality experiences and
equitable access for children and their families.
The current BC discussion on early childhood education and care programs for young children was initiated
by the February 2008 throne speech in which the Province announced:
A new Early Childhood Learning Agency will be established. It will assess the feasibility and costs
of full school day kindergarten for five-year-olds. It will also undertake a feasibility study of
providing parents with the choice of day-long kindergarten for four-year-olds by 2010, and for three
year olds by 2012. That report will be completed and released within the year.
In response to the throne speech, the Early Childhood Learning Agency (Agency) was created and situated
within the Ministry of Education. In the spring of 2008 the Agency approached the Human Early Learning
Partnership (HELP) to conduct a literature review of early childhood education and care (ECEC)1.
In this report we share highlights of the literature review. We begin with a brief description of the approach
used to generate the literature review and the public policy context that framed our work. We report on
ECEC policies and programs in other jurisdictions, followed by findings from BC. We then examine the
following five key issues in more detail: “school readiness” and child development outcomes in ECEC
programs; parental preferences regarding ECEC programs; the inclusion of children from diverse cultural
groups and with differing abilities; program expansion and integration of education and care; and issues
related to the development of a comprehensive ECEC strategy. Finally we identify what we see as the
major public policy implications of the literature review.
As noted, there are many names used to describe programs in communities that provide non-parental education and care
services for children under six. For the purpose of this report, we primarily use the term ‘early childhood education and care’
abbreviated to ECEC. This is the term used by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and it includes
services in a range of community settings, including schools. For greater clarity it has been necessary, in some cases, to add or
substitute the common name or “label” used for the particular program under discussion.
1) Our Approach to the Literature Review
HELP conducted the literature review in May and June 2008. Within this compressed time frame we
provided the Agency with summaries of material from refereed, peer reviewed academic literature; reports
published by governmental bodies (ministries and departments of education) and respected think tanks;
reports written by Canadian and international non-governmental agencies; relevant websites; and
whenever necessary, phone contacts with key informants. The material provided the Agency with a
representative review of major findings rather than a comprehensive review of all research that has ever
been published. The reference list for the literature review is available on the HELP web site at
The literature review addressed specific questions posed by the Agency and was provided in two parts:
Part 1 reviewed the child development outcomes from various ECEC programs (including early
childhood intervention programs, part-day (preschool) and full employment-day child care
programs, half-day and full school-day kindergarten programs) and the common elements of
quality that can be found in all of them. Part 1 also summarized the public policy and funding
approaches utilized across Canada and around the world and included an examination of recent
trends in staff training and qualifications.
Part 2 explored a range of policy, administrative and implementation approaches and the
current realities of ECEC programs in British Columbia. We expanded upon the research
reported in Part 1 on the importance of play in ECEC programs and introduced research on
ECEC programs for diverse groups of children. We reviewed the research on leadership in
ECEC, and we explored the expansion and integration of education and care. We discussed the
literature on program monitoring, methods of accountability and the use of learning standards in
ECEC programs. We provided an overview of the opportunities and challenges of ongoing
research and data collection, and concluded with relevant public policy implications arising from
the literature review.
2) The Public Policy Context of the Literature Review
The throne speech did not indicate how any new or expanded ECEC programming in BC might be
structured, delivered or funded. Given the use of the word ‘kindergarten’ in the throne speech, it could be
assumed that the principles and policies of public education in BC would be applied. For children six and
over these principles include: (a) direct public funding of school-based programs provided at no charge; (b)
legislated, universal entitlement for children and compulsory attendance; (c) publicly planned services,
delivered through locally elected governance bodies; (d) well-trained, publicly-employed staff. Furthermore,
current education policy in BC generally defines full school-day programming based on a Monday to Friday,
9 am to 3 pm schedule with summer, winter and spring breaks in service.
BC’s public education policies for children six and over are generally consistent with education policies
across Canada and much of the developed world. With respect to children under six, however, ECEC
policies vary greatly across and within jurisdictions. For example, there are a growing number of publicly-
funded ECEC programs for three and four year olds across the United States, commonly referred to as
either pre-kindergarten or preschool programs. In terms of policy variation, some of these programs are
universally available while others are targeted to specific groups of children; some are publicly delivered
while others are delivered privately by both not-for-profit and commercial providers; and some are delivered
in schools while others are delivered in child care programs.
In BC, half school-day kindergarten programs for five year olds are governed by the public education
policies outlined above, except that participation is voluntary. Aboriginal children, children who speak
English or French as a second language and children with identified special education needs are eligible for
free, full school-day kindergarten programs. For children that are outside these targeted groups, a few
school districts extend half-day kindergarten to a full school-day program on a fee-for-service basis. In
addition, independent (not-for-profit only) schools provide kindergarten through graduation programming.
They are publicly-funded at one-half the rate of the public school system.
In most of Canada ECEC programs other than kindergarten are broadly referred to as child care. Under
the child care umbrella in BC there are preschool, group and family child care programs. Preschools are
generally offered for part of a school-day during the school-year. Group child care programs generally
provide full employment-day programs on a year-round basis and may offer some part-time spaces.
Preschools and group child care programs are operated by both not-for-profit and commercial providers.
Family child care is provided by individual caregivers in their home.
Outside of Quebec, child care providers in Canada receive limited public funds and rely primarily on parent
fees to cover operating costs. There is no entitlement to these services but in BC some capital, operating,
parent referral and fee subsidy support is publicly provided. Staff training ranges from none required (in
BC’s unregulated family child care settings) to college certificate or diploma (in child care centres, including
preschools). Remuneration is substantially lower than that received by BC’s university-trained public
Given that the Throne Speech announcement left room for a range of policy options to be considered and
given the diversity of ECEC programs and policies around the world, our literature review was guided by
four fundamental assumptions about the possible expansion of programs under consideration in BC:
1) While the proposed programs may have a parent support component, their primary purpose is to
provide education and care of young children in non-parental settings.
2) The programs will be provincially regulated.
3) Surplus school space may be used towards the provision of these new or expanded programs.
4) If program options were to increase, public investment in ECEC would also likely increase.
As a result, the scope of this review was very broad yet aimed to include the full range of regulated, non-
parental ECEC programs for which there was available research on child development benefits.
3) ECEC Programs in Other Jurisdictions
Our review confirmed that most developed countries have increased public investment in ECEC programs
with the dual objectives of improving quality and equity of access. The expansion of ECEC programs
generally reflects common societal and demographic changes. There is a growing awareness of the
importance of early human development2 and an acknowledgement of the role that quality ECEC programs
play in supporting healthy child development. Furthermore, the need for full employment-day ECEC
programs to support parents in the paid labour force is widely acknowledged.
Generally, children aged 3-6 have received more ECEC policy attention than younger children. The trend is
towards free, publicly-funded ECEC programs for two years before school. The literature highlights the
importance of universality or equitable access in providing all children with the opportunity to participate in
quality ECEC programs regardless of family income, parental employment status, special needs or
Many jurisdictions have built their programs on the close associations between well-trained, qualified,
appropriately compensated early childhood educators who implement high quality programs which produce
positive child development outcomes. We noted a movement towards requiring a minimum of three years
post-secondary education for ECEC staff. Nonetheless, recruitment and retention of qualified staff is a
While public investment in ECEC is growing around the world, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) notes that it is not yet sufficient to fully ensure equitable and well-resourced
systems of quality ECEC. Yet, in most of the twenty countries included in a recent OECD review
governments pay the majority of costs for ECEC programs. However, significant variation exists. Out of
14 countries Canada invests the lowest percentage of GDP at 0.25%, whereas Denmark invests 2.0%.
In fact, the OECD observed that “weak public funding, especially for children under 5 years, is a
fundamental flaw in the early education and care system in Canada3”. Kindergarten in Canada is a
relatively well-funded public system of ECEC, but access is generally limited to 5 year olds and programs
do not support the full employment-day needs of many parents.
Most provinces in Canada have gradually increased funding for the other main ECEC components -
preschool, group child care and licensed family child care. These programs generally operate outside of
the public school systems. While provinces have worked to improve the quality of these ECEC programs in
recent years, significant challenges remain in recruiting and retaining qualified staff. Furthermore, only
modest increases in access have been achieved. Overall in Canada, outside of Quebec, only 12% of
children under 12 had access to a regulated ECEC space (other than school) in 2005. Finally, affordability
The increased understanding of early human development has led to the introduction or expansion of a number of other
parenting support programs (for example, parental leave, parenting resources, parent/child drop-in programs, etc) in many
jurisdictions, including BC. While these policies and programs form an important component of a comprehensive early human
development strategy and in fact may be linked to or integrated with ECEC services, other parenting support programs were not
examined in detail in this review.
3 OECD (2004). Canada Country Note, paragraph 107.
is a barrier to equitable access because, with the exceptions of Manitoba and Quebec, child care fees in
Canada are market-determined. Again, outside of Quebec, fee subsidies are Canada’s main public funding
mechanism for child care programs. While these subsidies are targeted to families with lower incomes, the
OECD and others view them as inefficient, complex and stigmatizing.
Quebec introduced a child care system in 1997 that provides direct public funding to programs
supplemented by $7 per day, per child in parent fees. More than one third of children under 12 in Quebec
have access to a regulated ECEC space. With only 22% of the pan-Canadian child population, Quebec
accounts for 45% of the total regulated child care spaces across the country.
4) The Current BC Context for the Literature Review
We noted previously that in BC most five year olds are in a publicly-funded, publicly delivered half school-
day ECEC program (kindergarten). While these programs are free for parents, boards of education
describe budgetary challenges with the level of public funding provided for the overall education system.
Some additional revenues have been generated through a range of methods including space rental for
child care and other programs. The recent expansion of the board’s mandate to include early learning
provides new opportunities to impact life long learning, while raising questions about the adequacy of
Almost 40% of children aged 3-5 are in licensed, centre-based ECEC programs provided outside the public
school system and generally referred to as child care.4 Of these, approximately 15% are in full
employment-day group child care programs and 25% are in part-day (preschool) programs. These
programs are delivered privately in both not-for-profit (58%) and commercial (42%) facilities. In addition,
there are licensed family child care spaces available for approximately 2.5% of children under 12.
While most operating revenues for child care programs come from full fee-paying parents, government
provides direct operating grants (approximately 20% of revenue) for licensed programs. Fee subsidies are
available for lower-income families using licensed, regulated or unregulated programs. Not-for-profit
organizations frequently augment these revenue sources with fundraising, surpluses from other programs
and/or local in-kind supports such as subsidized rent in public or community-owned facilities. Analysis of
BC child care operating fund data indicates that, generally, not-for-profit child care programs are more likely
to enroll subsidized children, have more qualified staff and pay higher wages and benefits than their
commercial counterparts5. Research identifies the latter two variables as key predictors of quality in
4Generally there are more regulated child care spaces for children aged 3-5 than for younger or older children. In BC, for
example, there are licensed, centre-based part school-day (preschool) and full employment-day spaces available for 29% of
children aged 3-5 but there are only enough regulated spaces for 14% of children under 12 overall. In addition, because one
part school-day preschool space often enrolls more than one child, the percentage of children aged 3-5 actually using licensed,
centre-based ECEC increases to almost 40%.
Currently, provincial funding programs do not differentiate between not-for-profit and commercial programs. However, not-for-
profit programs are more likely to occupy free space in their communities. About one-quarter of not-for-profit facilities receive
space at no charge, one-half rent or lease facilities and the remaining one-quarter of facilities are owned by the not-for-profit
organizations. Commercial facilities, on the other hand, are generally owned (45%) or rented/leased (55%).
The way that child care in BC and most of Canada is currently financed limits service expansion. Through
the market-based approach, individuals and organizations that meet local and provincial requirements
decide where to locate a program, which age groups and populations to serve, how much to charge
parents and how much to pay staff. As a result, service availability, cost to parents and quality indicators
vary significantly around the province, and there is limited ability at a community level to locate new
programs where needs may be particularly high regardless of ability to pay. Multiple studies show that in
general programs do not pay wages and benefits that promote recruitment and retention of qualified staff.
Parent fees are significant, despite the availability of fee subsidies. These factors combine in ways that
lead to operational and financial fragility. Infant/toddler programs are most likely to experience operating
deficits and high rates of program closure exist overall, but particularly in commercial and family child care
In Vancouver, for example, a 2004 study found a 10-fold difference in neighbourhood child care
accessibility rates. The least-served neighbourhoods are located in east side areas where quality child
care would likely have the greatest developmental benefits. Furthermore, in 2007 median fees for centre-
based child care programs in Vancouver for children aged 3-5 were $8,676/year on the west side and
$7,260/year on the east side (a difference of almost 20%). While this means that child care is more
affordable on the east side, it also suggests that there is less revenue available for quality programming.
Moreover, the range in fees is significant – across the city, the cost of full employment-day programs for
three to five year olds in 2007 ranged from $4,800/year to $10,860/year (a difference of 126%).
Moving to a province-wide analysis of availability and affordability, HELP has recently begun to link
population-level child care administrative data with its Early Development Instrument (EDI) data.
Preliminary findings affirm that wide variations in access exist across the province.
In BC 32% of centre-based child care facilities are in private buildings and 25% are in public schools or on
school grounds. The research describes a range of potential advantages to linkages between ECEC
programs such as child care and schools. However, co-location on its own does not necessarily lead to
enhanced program quality, accessibility or affordability. Child care programs on school grounds rely
primarily on parent fees just like child care programs in other community settings in BC. Furthermore,
facility charges vary considerably across school districts, ranging from nil or operating costs only up to
The current relationships between child care programs located on school grounds and the schools
themselves could be described along a continuum from ‘arm’s length tenant’ to ‘welcome guest’,
sometimes arriving at ‘integrated service’. While the principal’s leadership is frequently identified as key to
effective inclusion of other ECEC programs in schools, supportive public policy (for example, regarding the
use of and payment for surplus school space) and adequate resources are essential to successfully
supporting the inclusion and/or integration of ECEC programs in schools. Over the last several years
stakeholder groups across BC, such as Children First and ECD Roundtables, have worked to build bridges
between communities and schools. This work provides a foundation on which to expand co-location,
collaboration and potentially integration in the future.
5) Key Issues
As noted in our introduction the literature review and current public discourse in BC highlights five key
issues that merit further discussion: “school readiness” and child development outcomes; parental
preferences; inclusion and diversity; program expansion and integration; and a comprehensive strategy. A
discussion of these issues follows, concluding with the suggestion of a comprehensive strategy which
synthesizes key points.
5.1) “School readiness” and other Child Development Outcomes in ECEC Programs
We reviewed a representative number of studies on early intervention, child care, preschool and
kindergarten programs. The consensus of the findings that emerged from those studies includes the
• Well-designed and well-implemented programs have been found to contribute to very positive
academic and social-emotional developmental outcomes for young children.
• Program effects have been found for children who face socio-economic, biological and medical
disadvantages as well as for children who do not face these disadvantages.
• Program quality is a major predictor of developmental outcomes.
• Program quality includes both structural features (e.g. group size, adult: child ratio) as well as
process quality (the nature of the human interactions in the program).
• Children in low quality programs have lower levels of performance and achievement on
observational and developmental outcome measures.
• Developmental outcomes depend upon program duration (how long the child has attended the
program), frequency (how frequently the child attends the program) and intensity (the coherence,
clarity and implementation of the learning activities.
• Teacher education is a major predictor of children’s developmental outcomes.
• Most studies reported that the benefits of these programs last at least through the end of Grade 1.
In situations where the elementary program builds upon these gains with a continuing high quality
of child-centered learning, these early benefits can be extended.
A recent comprehensive literature review which analyzed the findings of 117 studies published since 1995
from around the world6 similarly concluded that:
• “Children in high-quality early childhood education settings experienced significantly greater
cognitive gains than children in low-quality settings.”
6Mitchell, Wylie & Carr, (2008). Outcomes of Early Childhood Education: Literature Review. Report prepared for the New
Zealand Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
• Good quality programs were those which included “adult-child interactions that are responsive,
cognitively challenging, and encourage joint attention and negotiation of ‘sustained shared
• In good quality programs children can “investigate and think for themselves” which in turn is related
to “better cognitive performance in later schooling.”
• “Significant associations were found between staff: child ratios, teacher qualifications and
education, teacher compensation, and children’s cognitive outcomes…less time spent in whole-
group activities was associated with better age-7 cognitive performance.”
• Other critical variables include duration (how long children attend over time) and frequency of
attendance in the program (hours per week).
• Research showed positive outcomes on learning disposition and social-emotional outcomes in
addition to cognitive outcomes.
In regards to full school-day kindergarten programs, a number of studies reviewed drew on analyses of a
large U.S. database known as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class (ELS-K)7 8.
These studies reported:
• Major positive gains for children who participated in full school-day kindergarten programs.
• While children in these programs did not experience a “double-dose” of kindergarten, they did
receive between 30-60% additional instructional time in reading and math in a child-centered, play
oriented kindergarten program.
• Higher child outcomes in both reading and math were well documented in these studies.
Another report based on the ELS-K9 review confirmed the findings reported to date and adds some new
perspectives on the data.
• This study confirms that children in public full school-day kindergarten programs have higher
developmental outcomes than children in public half school-day kindergarten programs.
• However, in private schools no such difference was found and when children from the private
schools were included with children from the public schools in the same analyses, the full-day/half-
day difference disappeared.
• As the authors point out, there are clear socio-economic and racial explanations for these patterns
of findings. Public full school-day kindergartens tend to have higher proportions of poor, African-
American children than public half school-day programs. In the private schools, however, the same
socio-economic demographic participate in full-day and half-day programs.
• These data are also consistent with their findings that by Grade 3 children who had spent their
entire educational life in private schools out-performed children who had spent their entire
educational life in public schools.
7 Lee et al (2006). Full-day versus half-day kindergarten: In which program do children learn more? American Journal of
8Magnuson, Ruhm, & Waldfogel (2006). The persistence of preschool effects: Do subsequent classroom experiences matter?
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22(1).
9National Center for Educational Statistics (2004). From kindergarten through third grade: Children’s beginning school
experiences, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.
• This pattern of results points to the importance of attending to many of the socio-economic factors
that influence children’s enrolment and performance in full school-day and half school-day
• The data also point to the need for good objective information on what the children actually do
during their full or half school-days in kindergarten; the nature of the learning and instruction to
which they are exposed and in which they participate.
In addition to the structural and process aspects of quality previously mentioned, the research literature
also identifies a third broad category of “quality” factors that includes enrolment and attitudinal factors. For
example, programs that reflect cultural and linguistic diversity and/or the inclusion of children with special
needs tend to be rated more highly on scales of ECEC quality. Higher rates of parental involvement and
positive parental attitudes have also been associated with better quality ECEC programs.
The term “readiness” is used in different ways. Traditionally, readiness was seen as a description of the
level of a child’s possession of specific knowledge and skills upon school entry. Assessing school
readiness emphasized academic skills, intelligence and language competence. More recently, readiness
has been expanded to include social and emotional aspects of child development and a recognition that
children’s development varies tremendously in the preschool and early school years. Historically, readiness
has been assessed through the use of standardized tests (or teacher- or parent-completed checklists). In
recent years, there has been an increasing reliance on observation of children’s play, interactions and
exploration of the physical and interpersonal environment to provide a more complete and naturalistic
profile of the child’s developmental status. There is also much diversity across social, cultural and ethnic
groups regarding the universality of readiness standards. “Readiness” is no longer seen as referring
exclusively to a specific threshold of knowledge, skills or competence.
Scholars, researchers and practitioners are increasingly expressing concern with “readiness” terminology,
measurement and interpretation when used to assess the outcomes of ECEC programs. Many point out
that “readiness” is not an objectively measured state of development. Rather, it is a social construct
created to serve as a kind of benchmark for development. Developmental science has pointed out that child
development varies widely in the years between 0 and 5 across children and that “readiness” in different
developmental domains varies widely within individual children. Thus, the speed, process and content of
development varies tremendously. Confusion abounds when the general term “readiness” is used as a
catch-all term with varying definitions depending on the speaker and the audience. Instead of serving as
description of a child’s developmental status in a specific domain, the term “readiness” has been used to
label and categorize children. In these cases the word “readiness” moves from being a description to a
Many ECEC programs are touted as effective ways of achieving school readiness for children. This
approach views the central purpose of ECEC programs as the preparation of young children for school.
Taken to its extreme, this view sees ECEC programs not as vibrant, exciting and stimulating settings where
3- and 4-year old children can play and explore at their current levels of development but merely as
academic training grounds that serve to prepare children for the “real world” of public schooling.
While literacy, numeracy and inquiry skills are some of the necessary skills needed for later academic
success, it is important to keep in mind the range of qualities that contribute to children’s “school-
readiness”. In their recent review of early child development science and practice McCain, Mustard and
The qualities developed through play are the same required to succeed in school. Children
who enter Grade 1 with strong oral communication skills are confident, able to make friends,
are persistent and creative in completing tasks and solving problems, and are excited to
learn and have pathways set for academic success. 10
5.2) Parental Preferences regarding ECEC Programs
Given that participation in all ECEC programs in BC is voluntary, current usage patterns provide one
indication of possible parental preferences for newly developed programs. However, current usage may
not accurately predict future use because changes in market factors (such as price and availability) and
government policy (such as public funding and regulation) can significantly impact choices and
More than 96% of BC’s 5 year olds are registered in school-based, publicly-funded ECEC (kindergarten)
programs. While most of those enrolled are in public schools, approximately 12% are enrolled in
independent (private, not-for-profit) schools. Outside of kindergarten in BC, only one-quarter of younger
children attend licensed part school-day (preschool) programs and fewer still attend licensed full
employment-day child care programs. Which leads to some obvious questions – do the differences in
usage patterns between kindergarten and licensed child care programs reflect actual parental preferences?
Or are there barriers that restrict parental choice? In commenting on a review of the data collected for the
2003 BC parent survey on child care Kershaw, Forer and Goelman concluded:
The high cost of licensed care appears to be a key factor motivating many families to
select less expensive, unlicensed care. In addition to cost, convenience is a critical
concern for families. Convenient hours and convenient location are the top two reasons
that families give for selecting their current care arrangements …The importance of cost
considerations and hours of operation are highlighted by the finding that these factors are
the top two barriers to employment and education among BC parents. They are also the
most prominent obstacles impeding families from using their preferred care arrangement.
The experience in other jurisdictions, including the province of Quebec, suggests that parental
decisions about care arrangements will evolve as ECEC policy evolves and changes the cost and
availability of service options.
5.3 Inclusion and diversity
As previously mentioned, full school-day kindergarten is provided in BC for targeted groups of children –
those with special needs, Aboriginal children and children with English or French as a second language.
However, there is no entitlement to ECEC programs prior to kindergarten.
McCain, Mustard & Shankar, (2007), Early Years Study 2: Putting Science into Action, page 49.
Therefore, expanding high quality ECEC programming for preschool aged-children with diverse abilities
and cultural backgrounds is an important consideration in the current feasibility study. One of the key
issues to be addressed early on is the question of whether such programs are seen as part of a universal
entitlement or whether they can only be accessed after meeting specific eligibility criteria.
A review of research on inclusion in early childhood special education programs11 provides an overview of
developments in this field. The authors’ conclusions are that the development of programs for children with
special needs at the early childhood level must include extensive consultation with stakeholders in the
following key areas:
• The definition of inclusion
• Rationales for inclusive classrooms
• Demographics on children in need of inclusion
• Demographics on available staff
• The kinds of classroom practices and activities in inclusive settings
• The desired social interactions in inclusive settings
• Teacher beliefs regarding inclusion
• The degree of professional collaboration within and outside the ECEC setting.
Early detection of and attention to developmental concerns is important for healthy child development.
Therefore, expanded ECEC programs could provide ideal access sites as BC moves towards the provision
of universal hearing, dental, vision and developmental screening programs. Universal ECEC programs
would both provide needed services to parents and ease the burden on public health nurses and other
community professionals charged with the responsibility of linking children and families for the screening
In addition to addressing physical diversity, quality ECEC programs promote social inclusion by addressing
a range of diverse children and family situations. Cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic differences
between families and communities may require consideration of unique barriers to equitable access of
ECEC programs. On its own, the lack of services in various languages can create access barriers for some
children and families. Furthermore, social distance is a potential barrier for families whose social or cultural
circles differ from those who provide the service. Lack of trust in or understanding of the services may
therefore result in access problems.
Given their unique life circumstances, Aboriginal children and families are particularly at risk of
experiencing these barriers. There are currently Aboriginal ECEC programs for 3 and 4 year old children,
such as Aboriginal Head Start, which prioritize First Nation languages exposure and programming
organized around diverse cultural traditions and which have demonstrated success in enhancing children’s
social, emotional, language and cognitive development. Ball identifies the need to expand both Aboriginal
Head Start and mainstream programs, noting that the latter should … build on ideas of holism,
interdependence, mutual respect and participation12. Overall, the importance of supporting Aboriginal
peoples as they develop the quality, accessible ECEC programs needed in their communities has been
11Odom & Diamond (1998). Inclusion of young children with special needs in early childhood education: The research base.
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 13:1, 3-25.
Ball (2008). Promoting Equity and Dignity for Aboriginal Children in Canada, IRPP Choices.14 (7).
5.4) Program Expansion and Integration of Education and Care
The recent OECD review of ECEC in twenty countries
…confirms two important international developments: the growth of services for young
children and a “growing consensus in OECD countries that ‘care’ and ‘education’ are
inseparable concepts and that quality services for children necessarily provide both”
(OECD, 2001:14; OECD, 2006). A challenge facing countries is not just how to provide
more services, but how to remedy a legacy of split services, one set of services providing
childcare for working parents, the other set early education for children aged 3 up to
compulsory school age.13
There is broad agreement that the Nordic countries have led the successful integration of care and
education. Systems in these countries are characterized by substantial and direct public funding of high
quality, universally accessible and ‘seamless’ ECEC. A seamless set of services wraps care and education
around the child, allowing her to stay in one community space throughout the day rather than being moved
between different care and education experiences. Most services in these countries are publicly planned
and delivered by employees of public or not-for-profit organizations following a common pedagogical
The trend towards increased public investment in quality, universally accessible ECEC is often linked to the
increasing involvement of education ministries in ECEC funding and delivery. Jurisdictions that have or are
considering moving ECEC into the education system are urged to:
…extend the values and principles of public education systems to all ECEC services; for
example: access to high quality services seen as a universal entitlement; free or
subsidized attendance recognized as a public good funded substantively by the state and
not (as ‘childcare’ is still considered in some countries) as private commodities; equitable
access and outcomes for all children.13
However, recent international developments suggest that there are different perspectives about the
preferred way to increase public investment in ECEC, raising important questions that must be addressed
as part of the integration discussion. Differences arise in two main areas.
1. In terms of public funding mechanisms, the OECD Starting Strong reports the findings of
researchers who suggest that direct investment in ECEC is preferable to the current fee subsidy
approach used specifically for child care in Canada (outside of Quebec) and elsewhere. Among
other things, direct funding provides greater public control over service planning, location, children
served, curriculum, staff training and quality evaluation. However, another OECD series of
reports14 favours parent fee subsidies for reasons of ‘equity’ (money to parents is assumed to help
13Moss & Bennett (2006). Toward a new pedagogical meeting place? Bringing early childhood into the education system,
Briefing paper for a Nuffield Educational Seminar.
14An OECD series – Babies and Bosses – reviews policies in OECD countries to support parents in their choices of work and
childcare options and recommends a range of measures to improve results.
them find care somewhere, even in the informal market) and ‘efficiency’ (by putting pressure on
providers to keep costs low and to meet parental demands).
2. In terms of service delivery mechanisms, the well-developed Nordic and other European ECEC
systems are delivered under public and/or not-for-profit auspice. However, less well-developed
services in the UK, Australia, the United States, parts of Canada (including BC) and New Zealand
all currently support commercial (for-profit) services in some form of ECEC provision.
Those who advocate for the direct funding of services also typically recommend that public dollars should
only expand public/not-for-profit ECEC, pointing to a consistent body of research indicating higher quality in
these programs. Studies show that commercial enterprises have strong incentives to resist increased
regulations or quality standards and to serve ‘profitable’ children and areas (e.g. areas where parents can
afford higher fees, children without additional support needs).15
On the other hand, those who advocate providing funds directly to parents (usually through fee subsidies or
vouchers) also typically support at least a mixed delivery system that includes private (not-for-profit and
commercial) as well as public delivery. Some groups specifically recommend the expansion of private
services over public services, asserting that public services are associated with bigger public budgets and
higher tax rates16.
Australian professor Deborah Brennan17 describes how the latter line of reasoning informed the Australian
government’s support for expansion of private child care since 1990. Originally, like Canada and New
Zealand, child care in Australia was privately provided by not-for-profit and generally small, independent
commercial providers. It was assumed that expansion would occur among the not-for-profit organizations
which already provided the majority of programs, along with the commercial providers. However,
expansion was in fact dominated by a few and ultimately one commercial child care corporation. This
corporation has linkages to child care corporations established in other countries including New Zealand,
the UK, the United States and, more recently, Canada.
The results of the Australian experience are instructive as BC considers the future of its ECEC public
policy. By increasing fee subsidies for parents instead of funding programs directly, the Australian
government planned to minimize public expenditures and maximize parental choice, service flexibility,
affordability and quality. But these results have not been achieved. Although Australia now has more child
care spaces, populations that require additional support to foster their inclusion are inadequately served.
Parent fees have risen by 123% since 1990 yet household incomes have only increased by 62%. The child
care price index has increased by 65% in the last four years alone, and public expenditures have ballooned
within a spiral of increasing public subsidies to help parents pay for the increasing cost of services. Public
concerns about quality are reported in the media, but research is lacking in part because of restricted
opportunities to monitor child care delivered by large corporations. Researchers have also observed
15For example, Cleveland, and Krashinsky (2004). Financing Early Learning and Child Care in Canada, Canadian Council on
16 For example, the OECD in Babies and Bosses (2002:88), cited by Mahon (2005) in “The OECD and the reconciliation agenda:
Competing blueprints”, Carleton University/Childcare Resource and Research Unit, p. 17.
17Brennan (2008). The Corporatization of Child Care in Australia: Not as easy as ABC. Presentation to various academics,
researchers, governments and communities in Canada available for download at
downward pressure on regulations. Finally, the dominance of one child care corporation raises significant
questions for parents about choice and program flexibility and for government about the implications of
substantial reliance on one private deliverer of services. Overall, the Australian experience raises broader
questions about public accountability for public funding and the achievement of public goals.
Recent experience in New Zealand, the United States (preschool/pre-kindergarten movement) and Quebec
suggests a trend towards a ‘blended’ approach to ECEC funding, with mixed service delivery. Under this
approach direct funding is provided to a mix of public, not-for-profit and/or commercial child care services.
This approach may in part reflect an acknowledgement that substantial increases to public funding should
be accompanied by increased public accountability for program quality and accessibility, which is best
achieved by direct funding of providers that meet specific criteria. At the same time, some of the
commentary linked to the inclusion of commercial operators reflects the rationale that ‘who’ provides the
program is not important, provided that established conditions are met.
The range of public funding, quality and access levels in the jurisdictions that have adopted this ‘blended’,
mixed delivery approach suggest that further analysis of its efficacy is required. A fundamental question to
be addressed in building and integrating ECEC is – what limitations, if any, should be placed on public
funding for the expansion of various types of providers?
5.5) Development of a Comprehensive ECEC Strategy
There is substantial evidence in BC and other jurisdictions describing:
The benefits of quality, integrated and seamless ECEC programs
The high levels of female labour force participation
The labour force shortages
The need for more quality, affordable, accessible ECEC spaces
The fragility of the existing child care programs in BC communities
The collaboration between various stakeholders in communities in promoting early human
The need to support Aboriginal peoples to develop ECEC programs in and for their communities
The need to support physical, cultural and social inclusion of children and families
The persistent and relatively high levels of child and family poverty
The commitments by both federal and provincial governments to advancing children’s rights and
women’s equality, both of which include access to ECEC programs
Therefore, a robust feasibility assessment will consider all of these factors in estimating both the costs and
the benefits of new programming. Parallel work by BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development on a
collaborative, cross-ministry early years plan provides an opportunity to integrate the feasibility assessment
process and, ultimately, the programs and supports that children and families experience. Our literature
review suggests that coordinating public policy across ministries can promote quality, seamless
programming for children and reduce the barriers that families face in accessing programs – including
availability, cost, hours of operation, language, fragmentation, etc.
Based on the research on ECEC programs it can be argued that advancing multiple social and economic
goals through an accessible and integrated program of ECEC:
1. Is key to achieving BC’s great goals regarding literacy and regarding persons with disabilities.
2. Increases opportunities for a broader range of groups to support new or expanding
3. Incorporates existing expertise, foundational supports and community commitment, likely
increasing the economic efficiency and effectiveness of implementation.
Each of these points is described in more detail below.
1. Key to achieving BC’s great goals
One of BC’s key great goals is to become the most literate jurisdiction in North America. Broad access
to quality ECEC is central to advancing this goal for young children.
Families are the first and most important places for children’s learning and care. In order to raise healthy
children families need time, resources and community supports. A comprehensive approach to ECEC
programming will increase the level of community supports currently available for all young children and
their families. At the same time, full employment-day programs provide opportunities for parents to earn
(thereby increasing their resources) and increase their own education and literacy levels.
Another great goal seeks to build the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities,
those with special needs, children at risk and seniors. Yet, Early Development Instrument (EDI) data from
2001-2004 show that 26% of BC children entered the formal school system vulnerable on at least one
domain of development. For children entering school between 2004 and 2007, the figure rose to 29%.
Since the bulk of vulnerable children reside in the more populous middle-income group, targeting early
interventions at the poor will miss the majority of vulnerable children. The evidence indicates that universal
approaches are more effective at reducing vulnerability. Research also shows that quality, universal ECEC
programming provides an effective forum in which to screen for vulnerabilities and thereby redress
problems early when they are less expensive to remedy.
2. Increases opportunities for a broader range of groups to support new programming.
There may be sensitivities to suggesting the development of an integrated and comprehensive ECEC
strategy in BC. Child care remains separate from early learning at provincial legislative, policy and funding
tables. The notion of public funding for non-parental care of young children continues to challenge some
deeply held beliefs and values in our society about the roles of government, women and children.
However, separating child care from the discussion of expanded kindergarten programming does not
eliminate controversy. By developing a comprehensive strategy that addresses multiple concerns and
priorities BC may be more likely to overcome barriers to advancing quality, accessible and seamless
ECEC, as other jurisdictions have done.
The current lack of access to ECEC for young children and their families is a visible issue in BC. It is
covered regularly in the media and referred to by parents, business and other community groups. The
May, 2007 AGM resolution of the BC Chamber of Commerce noted that “a comprehensive strategic plan
for the child care system in BC is critical to staying competitive in today’s global economy”. This
recognition by the Chamber of Commerce is consistent with the finding that non-parental ECEC is the
major missing piece of the family benefit package in the province. (The existing family benefit package
does include other policy measures like maternity and parental leave benefits, the Spousal and Common-
Law Spouse Tax Credit, the Universal Child Care Benefit which operates as a family allowance, and the
Canada Child Tax Benefit, among others).
However, the public discourse to date surrounding BC’s feasibility study reminds us that the rationale for
public investment in ECEC is not universally understood or supported. Some view child care as ‘baby-
sitting’ and some view kindergarten as ‘institutionalized’. Some are also concerned about the level of public
investment that will be required to promote quality and access.
These concerns speak to the need for ongoing research and regular communications to address some of
the myths about public investment in non-parental care. For example, one concern is the belief that
families with an at-home parent would be unfairly burdened with the costs of creating an ECEC system that
is seen to primarily benefit families with parent(s) working outside the home. Family benefits research
dispels this myth. This research notes that the positive ‘family benefit’ received by one-earner couples
moves to a ‘family penalty’ for two-earner couples using child care because, outside of Quebec, these
programs are not publicly-funded and high user fees are the norm.
If an expanded ECEC system unfolds in BC, it will be important to monitor and assess the equity of access
to public funding and service, to adjust policy as required, and to effectively communicate the facts. It may
therefore be prudent to build a cost/benefit analysis demonstrating that a comprehensive and integrated
approach will maximize BC’s ability to achieve multiple goals and, in particular, the great goal of becoming
the most literate jurisdiction in North America.
3. Incorporates existing expertise, foundational supports and community commitment, likely
increasing the economic efficiency and effectiveness of implementation.
A comprehensive ECEC strategy can leverage the financial, human resource and voluntary commitment
that already exists in ECEC programs, as well as the experience and knowledge of service providers, policy
researchers and analysts, and other community members. The ECEC community in BC is knowledgeable
about and committed to the needs of children, families and communities; well-informed on research and
policy issues, and; connected to researchers and academics across Canada and around the world.
Governments and foundations have supported the development of a substantial body of both community-
based and academic research in recent years. Multiple public reports now identify the lack of access to
quality, affordable ECEC as a key issue facing society today and, perhaps as importantly, offer solutions to
addressing this concern.
An ECEC system implementation model first developed for YWCA of Canada and Vancouver has been
adapted into a performance management model which was recently used to develop a costing and
implementation plan for quality, universal ECEC programs across the Victoria Region18. The model
demonstrates accountability for public funds by establishing benchmarks and phased-in targets for key
financial indicators of quality, affordability and access. The costing is broken down for each benchmark
and, under a direct funding model, service providers would be accountable for achieving these benchmarks
with the funds provided. The results of this project and the model have been made available to inform
government’s ECEC feasibility assessment planning.
In addition, and based on the methodology employed by Cleveland and Krashinsky, HELP staff and
colleagues have also worked with the YWCA of Vancouver to develop a cost/benefit analysis of quality,
universal ECEC for children aged 2-5 across British Columbia. We estimated that the combined child
development and labour force attachment benefits outweighed the program costs by 2.3:1.
Beyond BC’s borders, we note that service goals and good outcomes for children are more likely to be
found in jurisdictions that approach ECEC from an integrated perspective which views ECEC programming
to contribute to the attainment of multiple social and economic goals, including increasing and supporting
the supply of labour, promoting gender equality, and reducing poverty for families with children.
Nordic countries typically report the highest rates of female labour force participation among the OECD.
Many studies link this finding to their family policy, including full employment-day ECEC. In Canada,
economists report that the Quebec experiment with child care has achieved substantial labour supply gains
that well out-pace the gains reported in any other province in Canada. Some evidence indicates that
Quebec’s employment gains are especially strong among women without university education, that the
gains are disproportionately in full-time positions (30-40 hours/week), and that positive employment effects
grow in size as Quebec’s system matures.
Given these labour supply benefits, economists calculate that in a single year the Quebec government
recoups 40 cents on every dollar it invests in its child care program as a result of added tax revenue
contributed by mothers. Over the life courses of these mothers the revenue gains will increase because
strong labour force attachment for women of young children means they earn more wage raises, career
advancement and higher pensions. All of these earnings translate into more income taxes paid.
The 1998 Cleveland and Krashinsky cost-benefit analysis of quality, universal ECEC for children aged two
to five is widely cited in Canada. This analysis explicitly includes labour supply gains as a critical benefit in
the estimate that governments can expect to realize a 100% return on public investment when they
organize services to promote child development AND labour supply. Application of their calculations to the
BC context indicates that the labour supply gains realized from full employment-day ECEC would outpace
the employment provided by the 15,000 immigrants per year on which BC currently draws to service the
economy with needed labour.19
18Anderson & Rosen (2008). Building on our Strengths: A Child Care Plan for Victoria, Victoria Regional Child Care Council and
Partners in Learning and Advocacy for Young Children (PLAY).
19 Calculation of the labour-force growth based on modeling work with the YWCA of Vancouver, compared to immigration
information from BC Stats, 2007: http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/lss/lfs/imm/ILFS2007.pdf).
The labour supply gains discussed above signal that full employment-day ECEC will promote women’s
employment equality. The various benefits predicted from reducing the gender employment gap include
substantial GDP growth and long term pension sustainability. Equally important, the same ECEC
investments can be expected to indirectly influence the division of unpaid labour in the domestic sphere.
Research shows that the latter is a primary source of women’s ongoing wage inequities, occupational
segregation and poverty, along with higher rates of stress and the associated deleterious health
consequences. There is a strong connection between women’s labour force attachment and the share of
care and domestic work that male spouses shoulder. Generally, the more women contribute to overall
household income, the greater share of domestic work their husbands perform. Men’s share of housework
and caregiving also tends to rise as women demonstrate a longer period of continuous paid workforce
experience and as their occupational prestige increases relative to that of their husbands.
Poverty reduction for families with children:
Finally, studies of the European countries that have nearly eliminated poverty among families with children
show that their success lies importantly with the priority governments assign to providing employment
supports. Affordable, accessible ECEC is identified as key among the available policy mechanisms.
To conclude this section of the literature review highlights, an example of a comprehensive strategy for
healthy child development and family support, including ECEC, is outlined in the previously mentioned The
Early Years Study 2 (McCain, Mustard, & Shanker, 2007). The authors encourage the efforts being made
across the country to innovate, collaborate and construct a collective vision. The vision involves bringing
the science of early child development to the grassroots level through infrastructure, policy, and financial
support. Building on the previous discussion about service integration, it proposes early child development
and parenting centres in or linked to schools as a framework for integrating services—as a meeting place
for families in an intergenerational and cross-cultural approach that combines nurturing, nutrition and
learning. “Respectful, reciprocal partnerships with families and communities strengthen the ability of early
childhood settings to meet the needs of young children” (p. 138). “Ideal centres are located in
neighbourhoods responsive to community needs and supported by a legislative and funding framework” (p.
We can learn much from existing examples of neighbourhood hubs and integrated service delivery models,
in BC and elsewhere, that include many of the attributes envisioned in Early Years 2. Our collective
challenge is to move from demonstration to implementation.
6) Public Policy Implications of the Literature Review
To summarize, the literature review suggests that the following research-based policy and funding
implications are broadly applicable when increasing public investment in ECEC:
1. Expanded ECEC programming should address both quality and equitable access:
Quality ECEC programs provide seamless services across the child’s day, the family’s day and
across early life course stages, integrating early education and care.
Equitable access addresses the barriers to participation in quality ECEC experiences by making
programs affordable, inclusive and conveniently located, with hours of operation that meet both
part-day and full employment-day needs.
Although greater benefits from quality ECEC programs are reported for vulnerable children,
vulnerability spans the socioeconomic spectrum. Therefore, a universal approach will be most
While public investment is warranted for child development benefits alone, a comprehensive
strategy incorporates the positive impacts of improving multiple goals such as labour force
attachment, work-life balance, gender equality, poverty reduction and social inclusion.
Quality programs that advance multiple goals also suggest the implementation of a universal
approach, with benefits expected to outweigh costs.
2. Accountability for public funds is essential. Therefore, choose an investment strategy most likely to
advance quality and equitable access:
Fund programs directly and ensure they meet established quality and access standards.
Given extant data about quality, seriously consider limitations on the growth of commercial
operations, particularly multinational corporations.
3. Recruitment and retention of qualified ECEC staff is a significant challenge that requires a specific
Develop a comprehensive human resources strategy to address both training and compensation.
Anticipate that the pool of ECEC professionals currently working in BC’s child care sector may be a
primary source of human resources for new programs.
4. Despite evidence supporting public investment in quality ECEC, service expansion may challenge
some beliefs about the roles of government, markets, families, women and children. And, the
implications of significant social change must be anticipated and managed:
As part of an overall plan, and based on existing research, develop a comprehensive evaluation
and communications strategy to: monitor implementation; provide information required to affirm
progress or adjust as required; clearly explain ECEC approach and rationale as implementation
unfolds; and show that investment in non-parental programs does not come at the cost of existing
policy benefits for parents that elect not to use such programs.20
Finally, as BC examines the introduction or expansion of ECEC for children aged 3-5, the research
combined with the analysis of the current context suggests consideration of the following specific
On the one hand, introducing or expanding ECEC programming using the current public policy and
funding approach in child care in BC is unlikely to achieve the desired results of quality and
equitable access. The significant reliance on parent fees limits both access (problems with
affordability and availability) and quality (because insufficient operating revenue inhibits recruitment
and retention of trained staff). Although there would be minimal public cost to this approach, the
comprehensive public benefits will not be realized.
On the other hand, introducing or expanding ECEC programming using the current policy and
funding approach in education in BC (free, universal, public/non-profit delivery with well-trained
staff) is more likely to achieve the desired results of quality and equitable access. While there
would be increased public cost with this approach, the benefits of an effective and focused public
investment strategy should significantly outweigh the costs, provided they also are designed to
promote labour supply, gender equality, poverty reduction and social inclusion goals.
If the current policy and funding context for child care programs is unchanged while free
programming is introduced in schools, over time families will likely be attracted away from their
There are suggestions about the potential for existing child care programs, whether centre or
family-based, to modify their operations to accommodate the movement of children aged 3-5 into
school-based ECEC programs, with community-based ECEC programs delivering only before- and
after-school care. In addition to raising important questions about seamless services for children
and families, operationally and financially this is complicated. In part that’s because child care
programs for children aged 3-5 are more likely to be financially viable than programs for other age
groups; their removal would likely weaken an already fragile foundation of services.
Another suggestion is that preschool-aged programs in communities could convert to serving
infants and toddlers, filling the significant service gap for this age group. However, this conversion
could not be accomplished in a way that maintains existing quality standards without additional
financial resources and significant operational planning. From a financial perspective, this would
require capital modifications and increased operating funding to cover deficits. From an
operational perspective, this would require existing preschool staff to be trained in infant/toddler
care, and/or recruitment of new infant/toddler trained staff (if others are moving to the schools).
20Including the Spouse and Common Law Partner Tax Credit, the Universal Child Care Benefit, the Canada Child Tax Benefit,
and Maternity/Parental leave.
A related suggestion is that family child care programs refocus toward children under three, as well
as more before 9 am and after 3 pm care. First, this may not be operationally preferable or
financially viable, given the limits on numbers of infant/toddlers permitted by existing license
regulations. Moreover, an increased reliance on family child care for ECEC programming for
children under three heightens the existing questions about stability (given high turnover rates in
family child care) and quality (given the minimal training required to operate family child care
If new programming does not accommodate parents’ work schedules, they will need to find ‘before
and after’ care. If the programming extends from 9 – 3, it is likely that this will accommodate more
working parents than part school-day programming. Nonetheless, from a quality perspective (and
particularly for younger children), a seamless day should be prioritized, where the child stays in
place and consistent, quality programs wrap themselves around the child. A seamless approach
also reduces access barriers for working parents who otherwise have the added stress of trying to
organize before and after school care. The seamless day is therefore also important if the system
is going to maximize labour supply and gender equality gains.
Whatever configuration is chosen, the province should be planning, over time, to improve the
quality standards and resources for all ECEC programs. Specifically, increased public investment
in programming for children aged 3-5 should not be accompanied by reduced standards or funding
for children in other ECEC programs and age groups. The research is clear that all of children’s
early experiences in the home and in the community should support optimal development.
On the one hand, the significant number of children already in community-based child care
programs, and the existing capital, operational and human resource (both paid and unpaid)
investments in those programs, provides a potential place to build service linkages to schools in a
way that may enhance both economic and operational efficiency. Furthermore, at least in the short
term, one can anticipate pressure from parents, community groups and businesses to leverage and
‘build from what exists’. Strengthening existing community-based ECEC programs by integrating
them with new school-based programs should therefore be considered in the feasibility analysis.
On the other hand, integrating the public policy for community and school-based ECEC programs
without limitations on the growth of the former may promote the expansion of corporatized child
care. The implications of growth in the corporate child care sector elsewhere have included:
relatively high facility and related costs in operating budgets; resistance to increasing quality
standards; service focus on higher-income families and communities; populations of children and
families requiring additional supports under-served.
Regardless of whether or not an integrated policy approach is chosen, programs should primarily
be funded directly and funding levels should promote program accountability for quality and access
standards, including staff compensation, staff:child ratios, etc. Fees, if charged for service outside
of school hours, should be monitored to evaluate the degree to which they pose a barrier to access
and thereby risk compromising labour supply and gender equality goals.