Why full-day kindergarten doesn't work - Macleans.ca

Why full-day kindergarten doesn’t work

Charlie Gillis on the munchkin invasion

The munchkin invasion

Bob TyWhmczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/QMI Agency

Weekday mornings at P.L. Robertson Public School in Milton, Ont., are unlike anything most of us remember from school. For starters, there are the valets—a team of seven early childhood educators kitted out in orange reflector vests, opening car doors and holding backpacks to ensure a phalanx of minivans dropping off little people rolls apace. Then there are the “pens”: a network of fenced yards where kindergartners, who arrive in a seemingly endless flow, can play safely while they await the morning bell. “We use the word ‘pens’ lovingly,” says principal Wendy Spence. “But we might as well call them what they are.”

By 8:40 a.m., the kids begin filing indoors, and the enormity of Spence’s responsibility becomes clear. P.L. Roberston might be named for an icon of Milton’s industrial past (the man who invented the Robertson screwdriver), but it rests in a sea of brand-spanking new, cheek-by-jowl residential developments whose demographics skew heavily toward the young. Fully 403 of the school’s students are in kindergarten, representing nearly 40 per cent of a student body that, nominally at least, goes up to Grade 8. Four- and five-year-olds have all but taken over the place, decking the walls with their artwork and forcing older students into rows of portables while the Halton District School Board scrambles to build classrooms at neighbouring schools.

The munchkin invasion is a direct result of Milton’s status as a last frontier within commuting distance of Toronto: a young, middle-class family can still afford a home here—provided both parents have jobs. But P.L. Roberston is also a microcosm of a vast experiment in early-childhood education that school authorities across the country are keenly watching. By the fall of 2014, every family in Ontario will have access to state-funded, full-day kindergarten, sending some 250,000 kids into school for at least six hours per day. Other provinces offer all-day kindergarten to five-year-olds, but B.C. and Ontario are the first to try it at the both junior and senior levels. That means children as young as 3 now find themselves trundling off to school five days a week, staying until supper time if their parents take up the offer of fee-based child care available in about 60 per cent of schools.

The initiative arises in part from economic forces. Government is under increasing pressure to provide child care and education to dual-income families. But it is also born of egalitarian urges. Universal early learning, proponents say, can close the achievement gap between children from immigrant and low-income families and their more advantaged peers, providing payoffs to society many years down the road. Spence, who will take a board-level job next year overseeing the rest of Halton’s rollout, says it is already yielding benefits: “It’s putting the kids going into Grade 1 on an even playing field,” says the veteran principal. “Having the children here every day is a hugely important piece.”

But the costs are breathtaking. With two years left in the five-year rollout plan, Ontario has already committed $2.5 billion to hire teachers and build classroom space for the incoming wave of youngsters. Less than half of the 3,600 schools slated to offer all-day kindergarten have launched their programs, and when fully implemented, the initiative will cost an estimated $1.5 billion per year. That’s nearly 13 per cent of Ontario’s projected 2013 budget deficit, and enough to raise questions of whether the sacrifice will pay off. Does full-day kindergarten work? Do the benefits last? And given the wealth of evidence suggesting Canadian students (especially those from Ontario) already stack up well against their international peers, did we need it in the first place?

There is no truer believer in full-day kindergarten than Charles Pascal. In 2009, the academic and former deputy minister of education issued what would become the blueprint for Ontario’s program—a more audacious vision than the all-day kindergarten on offer in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Pascal’s oft-cited report, “With Our Best Future in Mind,” recommended a seamless network of child-care, early learning and parental support programs centred in the province’s public schools—a “holistic, comprehensive, integrated approach, ” as he put it, that would unite everything from prenatal care to nutritional education in a “one-stop shopping” model for parents.

Full-day kindergarten was the cornerstone of his vision: children would learn in a “play-based” curriculum under the supervision of teams—one fully certified teacher and one instructor with a degree in early childhood education (an ECE, in education parlance). At 3 p.m., the kids would enter before-and-after school care operated by school boards and overseen by ECEs, for which parents would pay a fee. Pascal pegged the annual operating costs at $990 million—an estimate that would prove wildly low.

But he had political buy-in. Then-premier Dalton McGuinty, he recalls, had been struck by a study suggesting nearly a third of the province’s Grade 1 pupils were defined as “vulnerable” on an index of educational development indicators, meaning they struggled with literacy, numbers or behaviour. “Most of those kids don’t catch up,” says Pascal. “Think about the social and economic costs of them not keeping up with their peers.” So in the teeth of a fiscal crunch wrought by the 2008 financial meltdown, the province forged on and began launching the kindergarten component of Pascal’s plan in 2010, starting at schools in low-income neighbourhoods.

The result fell short of the original vision. Today, only a tiny fraction of full-day kindergarten schools offer board-run after-hours care (most work with third-party providers), and many students attend school in rooms designed for older students. But Pascal says they can already point to results: provincial statistics to be released soon will show a dramatic decline in the percentage of vulnerable children in Grade 1, he says (he had not been cleared to disclose exact figures), while a 700-student study by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, based at the University of Toronto, found that full-day kids scored measurably higher in vocabulary, reading and numeracy than their half-day counterparts.

Janette Pelletier, the academic leading the latter study, concludes all-day instruction boosts the learning rate of children. “School’s doing a great job for all kids,” she says. “But when they get more of a good thing, it seems to work even better.” But a more crucial test awaits. Next year, the first cohort of students to receive full-day kindergarten will take the Grade 3 standardized tests administered by the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office, and the results will go a long way to answer a question that has long nagged proponents of all-day kindergarten: do the effects on academic performance last?

Evidence to date suggests not. Even as Pascal was researching his report in 2007, an economist named Philip DeCicca was publishing a study of U.S. data examining the gains full-day kindergarten students made vis-à-vis their half-day counterparts. Full-day instruction did put students ahead in math and reading tests, he found. But by the middle of Grade 1, the gap between their scores on math and reading tests began closing. Alarmingly, the regression was especially pronounced among minority kids—the very students full-day kindergarten was supposed to help. “There was a short-term positive effect,” says DeCicca, who holds a Canada research chair in public economics at McMaster University in Hamilton. “But by the end of the first year, it was essentially gone.”

DeCicca’s findings reflected those of other adverse results that seem to have been lost amid the excitement over full-day kindergarten. In 2010, the final report of the massive Head Start program in the U.S.—an initiative launched in 1965 to provide preschooling, health care and nutrition services for low-income children—also concluded that the academic benefits of extra schooling consistently wore off by the end of Grade 1: “No significant impacts were found,” it said, “for math skills, pre-writing, children’s promotion or teacher report of children’s school accomplishments.” The report seemed to validate the long-standing belief among many academics that what happens at home with a child is just as, if not more, important than extra time spent in school. Another study, led by Stanford University academics and published in 2007, looked into the effects of public child-care centres, where many U.S. children receive early childhood education; it found that kids who entered a centre’s care before kindergarten behaved worse when they reached school age than those who spent the period with parents. The authors didn’t speculate as to why, but suggested the issue warrants further investigation.

DeCicca was not consulted for the Pascal report—a conspicuous omission, considering that few, if any, Canadian-based academics at the time had studied the outcomes of full-day kindergarten in depth. Now, as B.C., Ontario and possibly Alberta invest in the model, he’s keen to share his concerns. Why, he asks, are governments so keen on a universal program rather than targeted schemes for disadvantaged families? What are they really selling? “It goes to the question of whether full-day kindergarten is about education or about some kind of subsidized daycare,” he says. “I mean that seriously. Quality daycare is expensive. But full-day kindergarten is really expensive.”

The costs are hitting home. In B.C., teachers’ unions have complained that the province is squeezing other parts of the education system to fund full-day kindergarten, pushing up class sizes, cutting back on supplies. In March, Alberta Premier Alison Redford put her $200-million promise to introduce all-day kindergarten on indefinite hold while she tries to balance that province’s budget.

Even Ontario’s program remains surprisingly controversial despite tireless promotion by the provincial government. Two years ago, in the face of a ballooning deficit, McGuinty commissioned former bank economist Don Drummond to identify cost-cutting opportunities. To the government’s dismay, Drummond drew a big, red circle around full-day kindergarten. McGuinty refused to halt it, and his successor, Kathleen Wynne, has restated her commitment to the program. But the opposition Progressive Conservatives have promised to stop the roll-out until the province is back in the black. “It’s not, is it a good program or a bad program?” said Leader Tim Hudak. “It’s, what can you afford?”

The better question might be, is this the program you need? It’s not, after all, as if Canadian students were falling behind the world—concerns about at-risk children notwithstanding. On triannual standardized tests overseen by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canadian 15-year-olds score below only China, Korea and Finland in reading, math and sciences. Alberta, B.C. and Ontario scored highest among Canadian provinces in 2009, the latest year for which results are available. None of those provinces offered full-day kindergarten when the test writers were in primary school.

Nor is everyone comfortable with putting children in institutional care for so much of their young lives. Gordon Neufeld, a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist, believes long hours in school and daycare upsets the development of children, resulting in behavioural problems down the line. “They begin forming attachments at their level, with their peers instead of with their parents,” says Neufeld, co-author of Hold On to Your Kids, a book that urges parents to spend as much time as possible with their children during the kids’ early years. “This pulls them out of the orbit of their parents, and truncates their development.” Peter van de Geyn, a sales and marketing director in Vaughan, Ont., says his four-year-old daughter Addy comes home “exhausted” from her all-day classes, which start at 8:40 a.m., and wonders how much she can be learning when she’s so tired. “It just seems too much,” he says.

Yet few in the education sector seem fazed. Liz Sandals, Ontario’s newly appointed education minister, says the Liberals will be happy to defend the program on the election trail, noting that, before its introduction, province-wide elementary enrolment was declining due to Ontario’s stagnant birthrate. Most of the school and board officials interviewed by Maclean’s extolled the program—no surprise, perhaps, given the thousands of teacher, ECE and administrative positions the program has created.

As for the cost concerns, Pascal dismisses them as “short-termism” driven by conservative ideology. “I understand there’s a world view out there that if women stayed home that the kids would be raised perfectly and there would be more jobs for the boys,” he says. “But the participation of women in the Canadian workforce is No. 1 among the OECD countries. That’s important to remember.” As for questions about the longevity of full-day kindergarten’s benefits, he believes Ontario’s program will be vindicated because it is better, more holistic, than those examined in previous studies. “The question is, what’s the quality [of the program]? How active are these kids? Are they getting the nutrition base? Are they getting rest periods when they need them? What’s the quality of the pedagogy? It’s a no-brainer, when you control for quality, that the effects are going to last.”

Of course, by the time we find out, full-day kindergarten could be a well-entrenched norm. None of the six provinces and territories that offer some level of all-day kindergarten have curtailed their programs; Nova Scotia recently announced plans to expand early childhood education and health programs. While full-day kindergarten is technically optional, none of the schools contacted for this story had parents who picked up their children after a half-day.

Certainly the parents around P.L. Robertson are voting with their feet. Next year, the school will add two more kindergarten classes, bringing its total to 16. Only 60 of the students, or 15 per cent, make use of a municipally run before- and after-school care program, which suggests most are attending school even though they have a family member at home who could be taking care of them. Principal Spence admits she “didn’t know what to tell parents when this first started, because I had no idea what it would look like.” Now she has her answer: with each passing day, full-day kindergarten looks bigger, more costly—and for better or worse, a lot harder to stop.


Why full-day kindergarten doesn’t work

  1. Thank you, Maclean’s for telling the truth about Ontario’s FDK program. It’s time taxpayers realized that the program is nothing more than a massive government takeover of a vital (and lucrative) part of the economy. What McGuinty has done is to strengthen the union-strangle hold on education and strengthen their collective bargaining power at taxpayer’s and children’s expense. To heck with apologizing for the gas plants, the new premier needs to start apologizing for this debacle and start turning it around by stopping its continued roll-out in its tracks.

    • Great comment Mike….these comments seldom make the front page of the Toronto star for some reason? Perhaps….because the truth is hard to publish.The FDK was not put in place thinking about the big picture but to add something to a list of accopmplishments to a governement fraught with challenges!

  2. With any social change comes controversy. Fortunately for this program there is ever growing scientific research into its efficacy on increasing academic trajectories of Ontario children. Namely, research shows children are more engaged and therefore learn more efficiently in small group activities. This type of play based learning is only possibly because of the co-facilitation between the ECE and the teacher in all FDK classrooms. Children are not exposed to a ‘full day of instruction’ as Charlie Gillis conveniently miswrites, they are involved in a full day of play based learning. The distinction here is important. The FDK principles, as well as Pascal’s push for it, is based in prior research suggesting that children in fact do not learn best sitting at a desk being lectured. Rather, learning through play – interest stations, free inquiry, academic manipulative (blocks and alphabet train tracks, etc) facilitate learning in a more holistic and lasting way. Through inquiry and play ECEs and teachers guide children to the next level of learning by taking their lead.
    I have heard concerns, I have heard criticisms. Fortunately for this initiative, there is science that can answer the pending questions. It will tell a story of increases in engagement, self-regulation, positive social/emotional learning opportunities and ultimately heightened academic trajectories for FDK children. Don’t judge until you see the evidence. It’s there and it’s outstanding.

    • I’m glad you’re enthusiastic about this because I sure am not. I’m seriously considering pulling my son out of full-day and only letting him go half-days for the rest of this current school year. We’ve noted significant social issues resulting from him being jammed into a classroom of 18 other five-year-olds. Every day he comes home telling us about a movie they got to watch. Since they’re only watching TV in the afternoons anyway, what’s the point of them even being there?

      His first year he was in a class with a bunch of good kids who got along really well. They were learning and developing strong social skills. Apparently there was another kindergarten class with a bunch of difficult children. So the second year they shuffled the two classes so that there were equal numbers of difficult children in them. Now the previous trouble-makers are even worse, but they’re spread across two classes and have turned them both into a circus. Now my son and his former friends don’t even want to go to school anymore. Who ever heard of a five-year-old who doesn’t want to go to school?

      As far as we’re concerned we’re at the point where we are going to put the kids into a private school as it seems the public one is nothing more than a poorly-run daycare.

      But I’m sure our case was the exception, of course.

      • And what happens in Grade 1, if he is once again with a bunch of troublemakers and miscreants? Are you going to pull him out again as well? How about in junior high? Your critique sounds more like an indictment against a specific school or class rather than an entire system. My daughter has done half-time junior kindergarten with one school, full-day junior kindarten with a second school (we moved halfway throught the year), and full day senior kindargten with that same second school we moved to. We had nothing but positive experiences to report.
        But I’m sure that my case was the exception, of course. Clearly, since you’re having a bad experience, our entire education system is in jeapordy, particularly our full-day kindergarten program.

      • First, it’s hard to believe, but your son is fortunate to be in an FDK class of 18. I taught an FDK class that had ranged from 28-32 kids over one school year, which is why I changed grades. It’s unfortunate that your son is being shown a video each afternoon – he and his classmates deserve better, and you can be part of change. Address it with your principal before pulling him out, asking for the teacher to account for daily videos.

      • Congratulations on deciding to opt for half-days for your son. As a former kindergarten teacher I have seen how tiring and overwhelming it can be for some children in a full day “play based learning” kindergarten program. It’s not the program itself that I see as the problem, but as you mention it is spending that many hours with 18 – 24 active, busy, noisy peers who often bring with them their own particular 4 year old issues. I believe it’s better for a 4/5 year old to be part of a small day care in a home environment. I would urge you to go with a morning half day for your son.

      • 18? you are blessed. my 3 yr old was jammed in with 29 others. full day is just babysitting when there is not enough room or time in the day for a teacher to ever interact with your kid in any meaningful way. i keep my sk kid home 3/5 afternoons and at 4 she can read, write and add/subtract and count to 100. none of which she learned in school.

    • Our son was extremely tired and developed anxiety being away from me the full day. I resented the push and love my child dearly. We were told he had a large vocabulary when he started Kindergarten but the full day brought on increased sickness d/t fatigue and exposure to virus’ that kids get at school. For him, it was a rough haul and know he was not alone. It is a job and care initiative on part of the government. I get so angry when they say research is going to make our little kids smarter and hold great keys to the future for our society. Bogus! The school system is no different when I went and I agree play-based is what kids need at Kindergarten but not a full day. Interesting how our Pediatrician said that rates in children are rising with anxiety – interesting – perhaps a new study should be launched and parents who support a half day be interviewed.

    • I think the article cites some research from the U.S. that suggests that the benefits may be short-lived. That’s not surprising to anyone who understands childhood development.
      Experiments with learning and children go on all the time in the Education system. Without a holistic approach and more reasonable options for parents, we’re putting too many eggs in the FDK basket. Too much at stake to limit initiatives to experiments when there are few options for working parents to choose from.
      The educational system has a tendency to go with trends and to counterbalance past practices. A sustainable system based on wisdom would be much more effective. I’m a little uncomfortable that an expensive experiment is promoted rather than a system with a sound basis that most parties would be interested in supporting.
      Not saying it’s wrong, just saying it’s following the same process that many changes have in the past. It risks that the plug will be pulled by another government due to its expense.

  3. This article re-iterates the problem I always have with reporting on Full Day Kindergarten – namely that the option is between full day at school or full day with parents. Hello! Most of us parents are working full time. Our kids are not sitting at home in some bucolic parental learning bliss, they are at full day daycare. Yes, that means the parents shoulder the costs fully rather spreading it out over the taxpayer based. Yes, as parents we signed up for paying for our kids expenses – I certainly don’t qualify for any type of subsidized spot. But if the argument is about learning environments than I can not see how kindergarten rather than private daycare cannot help but be beneficial.

    My son has been in two daycare in his life. Both have had high educational standards and great staff. We did a lot of checking around before we picked either and saw some pretty substandard daycare centres. That doesn’t even begin to address all the at-home daycares that run the gamut from small education centres to glorified tv rooms.

    If you want to keep your kids at home and have the energy and experience to provide the stimulation they want and deserve power to you. For the rest of us that have no option but full day care I’d rather have some assurance that there are trained staff and some educational benefits available rather than easy access to a DVD player

    • Maybe it depends on the daycare. The kindergarten classes where my son attends have at least 18 ‘students’ each.

      A smaller daycare with only a few children might provide a better atmosphere for those kids than such a chaotic environment.

    • At my school where we currently have an onsite daycare, and will have FDK in Sept. the ratio for 3 and 4-year olds to teacher is 8:1 in the daycare, and for the same aged children in FDK, it will be 30:2. Which group of children get more individualized attention ? Which setting is more chaotic and just plain loud ?

    • Licenced daycares have early childhood educators who plan an early learning environment that is eqaul if not better than that of a school for young children. We are educated and trained in early learning and early childhood development our focus is on the child’s needs and interests and not the education system’s. And yes children learn just as well in a more relaxed and engaging nurturing play environment with a ratio of 8 children to 1 educator rather that 30 to 1 teacher in the education system..
      We however are losing our early childhood educators to the school system as we cannot provide the wages that the education system does. Licenced daycares are endangered, more unregulated home care daycares will be on the rise.

      • “more unregulated home care daycares will be on the rise”.. No, those children will be in FREE full day kindergarten.

  4. This article reads more like something off of yahoo.ca than what Macleans normally creates. Even starting at the headline, we start to see problems. “Why full-day kindergarten doesn’t work” insinuates that the inneffectivenes of the full-day program is a universally understood, foregone conclusion. The jury will be out on that for quite some time. Noting that that the insertion of extra younger students has forced older students into portable classrooms makes it sound like portable classrooms are some kind of new horrific phenomenon forced upon an unprepred school system… news flash, folks, portables have been around forever, and in case most of us have forgotten, our country started out with one-room school houses that integrated multiple grades. While I understand that identifying the annual cost as being 13% of the budget deficit is a factually correct point, where is the analysis that asks how much of the actual education budget this costs? I would have expected an article that discusses the value of full-day kindergaren would make sure to frame it in the context of the entire education budget for Ontario. Many children under the old system ended up going to half a day of kindergarten, only to get bused to a half day of daycare afterwards. Many of those daycare positions are also subsidized by the government. Where is the value-add in that kind of a two-tiered system? This article also noted studies claming that math and reading tests conducted on students coming out of the full day system show that the additional numeracy and literacy imparted eventually faded away. Anyone with 4-5 year olds know that the kindergarten years are not meant to simply do abc and 123 exercises, they are meant to teach children additional knowledge about the world around them, improve motor skills, and help them improve their social skills. Assessing full day kindergarten based on how well students retain only 20% of the curriculum doesn’t paint a very complete picture. The most egregious part of this article is in the last paragraph: “Next year, the school will add two more kindergarten classes, bringing its total to 16. Only 60 of the students, or 15 per cent, make use of a municipally run before- and after-school care program, which suggests most are attending school even though they have a family member at home who could be taking care of them.” It doesn’t suggest that at all! The other 85 percent could be going to a non-municipally run daycare, or have one or both parents that are finished work by the end of the school day. What kind of analysis is this? Where is the census data to back that assertion up? I have a 4 year old and a 6 year old, and most families that I know have both parents in the workforce, or are single-parent households, so the idea that 85% of the people that I know have someone lounging about at home while their kindergartner is doing full day schooling sounds ludicrous.

    • Well Said !

        • uuuuummm, ya, not really sure why you’re posting that regarding the financial cost (for which Ontario doesn’t even have the money) of full-day kindergarten

          • Oh, you can actually type! Thanks for joining the conversation instead of just dropping in a link to reply to my comment. I posted those links because they are just about as relevant to the discussion as yours is, considering that the date on that article you posted is from November 2009, over 3.5 years ago. The program had hardly even started, so the numbers in that article are completed outdated. Also, the $6.1 billion cost that it threw in there is completely out to lunch. What’s more, the organization behind this article is a think tank that believes the solution to all of our problems lie in magically forcing people to stay in their marriages, and preventing homosexuals from being allowed to start families (see link below). All of their numbers are bent to that, and none of them talk about assessing the value for dollar of full day kindergarten.

          • I’m not going to get into a conversation regarding the relevance of the article with someone who resorts to a juvenile display of sarcasm. Best wishes to you.

  5. I think our society ought to consider its priorities: it is fashionable today to support “free-range” chickens and giving animals more natural environments. However, somehow it is unthinkable that young children (3 years old!) would be raised by their own parents in a more natural environment. We treat our children like cattle in a feedlot with industrial ways of raising them.

    I think it is so sad what we as a society have done to our children. Many kids today see their parents on most days for perhaps 2.5 hours or less (an hour before school max, maybe an hour and a half after they are picked up from daycare at 5ish). I’m not suggesting schooling is bad, but institutionalizing kids younger and younger and for longer periods of time is, I think, not a loving thing for us to do.
    Shouldn’t our great wealth, prosperity and technology have enabled parents to spend more time, not less, with their children? It could have if that was our priority. I will blame myself as well for this as well, I know I could make my own children a higher priority.

    • Interesting comparison.People eat free range meat but have factory-farmed children.

  6. Finland has the #1 ranked educational system in the world. Students there start school when they are seven years old. Enough said.

    • So if we start our children in school at the age of seven, and do absolutely nothing else to learn from Finland’s system, our own school system will be magically reformed and improved? If your answer is “yes”, then I would be delighted to see some studies referenced that confirm schooling is simply about a matter of when you start. If your answer is “no”, and that there a lot more things that we have to fix, then to state “enough said” would have been a bit premature.

    • Early Childhood Education is huge in Finland, and ECE’s are highly respected there. Their education is a universal system, where play-based learning is valued. Canada is adapting their philosophy’s currently….

    • They have a stronger safety net; less poverty among 6 years old. Removing 6 year old public education and the ancillary amneties that come with it would hurt cdn children more than Finland’s were hurt by not publicly educating 6 year olds.
      I still remember April. Me and the Bible-school exchange student patted eachother on the back, but April was prettier. I wouldn’t walk beside the Xmas Mary because she was ugly and it pissed off all the conservative 6 yr olds. I’m sentimental because the older we got, the less utilitarian we became, except for me. Is why me and my min wage salary should be allowed to be the big man in a 15 yr old girl’s heart, like the last PM wanted. Let the chldren’s laughter remind us of how you used to be.
      RedRock, did you graduate kindergarden?

      • This comment was deleted.

        • You’re right, I want to use pandemics as a threat just like you actually use AGW as an AB idiots reward. My motive is to get you to respect Finland and human Q-of-L. What’s your’s?
          I don’t want a future a CPC children brainwashed.

          • Seriously, I’m too busy reading about a carbon sequester to compare salaries and child poverty and education capital across jurisdictions.
            I only got one sunshine telegram is music class. Boy I loved getting five star stickers for five quiet days. This one kid, me and a dumb assertive girl knew he would be a problem. He said one little phrase on Friday and sure enough, 4 1/2 stars that week. $%^& that.
            It was nice to be a playa. My parents divorced by grade 1. I was always utilitarian but so was everyone else in kindergarden, except for said kid. I think maybe one day, children will grow up educated and self-selecting in a way that makes them desirable for me to bang (post-puberty I mean). I figure the aliens will leave us alone as long as we don’t make WMDs. Dig-dug, Moon Patrol, No’s Castle. Back before Harper and Clark and all these politicians made everything about idiot families. Where’s my Sunshine Telegram now?

          • Don’tcha know? The happiest time and memory in a poor boy’s life is when he gets forcibly crammed in a room with rich girls. If he amounts to anything he won’t waste his life pleasing the rich girl when she grows up and loses her soul (for nesting I guess). His poverty will have trained him to rule. If you take away public education from him, he won’t make it to adulthood sane.
            Those games sucked but were the arcades in my areas. While playing Astroblast I figured out the Aliens would know we like being in charge and belieiving in or experiencing, free will.
            What some poor boy will have to figure out is whether to enforce WMDs of nearby aliens or not. My quantum network doesn’t work too far out. I suppose a lesser person could afford hookers is where the system is breaking down…

          • MP was alright. The space background is like the Bubsy carnival level. I loved art class in kindergarden. They made a very hard jump part though, it is like when Tetris or Crystal Castles suddenly gets too tough. I used to play Armor Ambush against myself. I’m gonna get eaten by a bear because you guys couldn’t figure out how to give AB a kindergarden science education.
            I deserve a sunshine telegram in the mail :(

    • Finland also guarantees free and universal daycare available from the age of 4 months to 5 years, and a year of kindergarten for 6 year olds. They just don’t call those ‘school,’ and it isn’t academically focused (and for younger kids it’s often family based or has a very high adult/child ratio). According to the stats I can find, 44% of Finnish two-year olds are in daycare and about 68% of four year olds, and 95% of 6 year olds are in kindergarten.


  7. Do the right thing. Choose to be a responsible mother and take care of your own children. Choose to be a responsible parent or don’t have children.

    • That’s ridiculous. Way to support independence for women. Some Mother’s enjoy working and supporting their family. Just because you want to provide for your children, doesn’t mean you are a bad mother. You should be grateful that Women now have the option to work and vote.

    • Where is the mention of being a responsible FATHER in your comment?

    • Okay so let me get this straight a responsible mother is one who stays home and watches their children. Well in your theory we are only responsible if we are home, so perhaps my husband should stay home as well because he is their father. So please enlighten me how we are supposed to feed and clothe our children and provide a roof over their heads. Or further their education through post secondary education with no income. We should live in poverty and we’ll I guess they shouldn’t go to school at all either because that’s letting someone else care for our children. That Defenetely shows our children responsibility and goals and a future. Perhaps you should wake up and realize that in order to be responsible we need to provide for our children and give them all the tools they need to learn to succeed and grow up in a healthy environment. I’m sorry but poverty isn’t one of them

    • That seems to be a simple approach to a complex problem. The solution you’re proposing would involve abortion. Quite a few people on birth control have children – not through any neglect in their behaviour. There is no birth control that is perfect, even in combination.
      It’s easy to have simple solutions to problems that are not our own. It usually involves more than just the mother.
      Just letting children suffer for the mistakes of the parents is neglectful and lacking in compassion. So is just blaming the problem on lack of responsibility of the mother.

  8. I personally think the author of this article needs to do their research on Education and gain some more perspective. Anyone looking to comment or react to the article should read some information about Early Childhood Education and Child Development. It is quite interesting to learn about how a play-based environment molds children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Parents are working full-time and putting their children into Daycare… children in Full-Day Kindergarten are suppose to be given a very similar day with curriculum integrated into their day. Each person is going to have a different opinion, but should base it on their experience, this is a new program and Teacher’s and ECE’s are learning how to work with each other, results in the later Grades could be based on the Teacher’s ability to deliver the curriculum. How can Canadians not value their child’s education and learning? Don’t we want the best for our children? On the other hand, what about the philosophy of Universal Childcare instead? Would those against Full-Day Kindergarten rather have their taxes be put towards Universal Childcare, which then would defeat the purpose of Kindergarten… just a thought. It’s an area of thought ECE’s have been fighting for, for years. In fact, the Liberal’s supported it at one time, and Quebec currently is using the concept.

  9. Is this what the Ontario government really wants? A population who cannot think for themselves? who follow “trends”? who lack a sense of family and home?

  10. When did it become the responsibility of the GOVERNMENT – who by the way is funded by ALL TAXPAYERS – to pay to babysit your children? If you can’t afford them, you shouldn’t have them, how fair is it that your child is being raised by someone else?
    Kids left until dinner time? Really? How much family time is left in the day for interaction and “quality time?” I realize a lot of people have to work but using the TAXPAYERS to subsidize your childrearing is unreasonable.

    • Couldn’t the same be said for our entire public educational system? Why should the taxpayer be subsidizing any of your children’s education? According to your line of reasoning, why shouldn’t every parent be fully responsible for the education of their own children from JK right through to college. I wonder how well that would work.

      • Let’s not stop there. Why should us taxpaying folk foot the bill for any public service? Let’s police our own streets, have volunteers take turns guarding criminals in their basements, and have everyone pay their own medical bills. And who needs roads, anyway?

      • i would love it.
        i could choose the school that i felt was best for my child, i could have a say in the teachers and the process. my kids would have a playground and maybe more than 15 mins of lunch.
        i think that is a great solution.

        • You already CAN chose the school of your choice and it’s called private school………..but you don’t because there is FREE school already available.

          • private school? that’s what you think a choice is? sorry, not all of us live in places where that is an option.

  11. Interesting title for this article considering that it’s not a foregone conclusion that full day kindergarten does not work. The article even suggests that the jury is still out.

  12. There is so much wilful ignorance in this article and some of the comments, it almost seem futile to contribute. But I will. I started full-time kindergarten in 1948 at the age of four in the U.K. It was a state-run “nursery school” that seemed to go from kindergarten to grade 1 or 2, at which point we transferred to the local Primary (Elementary) school. We put my own children into a local “play school” at age 3 and then kindergarten at age 4. We immigrated to Canada in 1973 when one boy was in grade 2 and the other in kindergarten. I was shocked to find kindergarten here was half-day. Now, here we are discussing the merits of a system that has been in place elsewhere for over sixty years, as if we’d only just thought of it! By the way, a quick check on the Finnish system in Wikipedia reveals how misleading is an earlier comment suggesting their system starts at age 7. In fact they have a complete pre-school and kindergarten system that precedes this “starting” point.

  13. Not every mom has the luxury of being able to stay home, so if it was only half day they would be in daycare longer after or before school which in turn would cost the parents more and therefore would mean they would have to work longer hours to be able to afford daycare high costs. So really i don’t see how half day is more beneficial, most kids have already been in daycare full time and once they start grade one it will be full day so I think if they got used to half day grade one hours would be a bigger adjustment. So I disagree. Yes I would love to be able to stay home, but with two kids in Toronto that’s not really a suitable option. My oldest will start Jk in the fall and his school is only half day until the following year, so I am stuck having to look for before and after school care and full day for my youngest son which costs ALOT of money. I’d much prefer full day and being able to work less so I can be home more with my kids!!!

    • the cost is incredible, how about instead of paying for very expensive babysitters you get a tax break or a daycare allowance that is covered by the province vs. all day kindergarten?

  14. Why not just call this what it is–“free” very expensive tax-payer-funded daycare Ontario just CANNOT afford!?

  15. my daughter started kindergarten last fall. i keep her home after lunch. i thought about sending her back once she was old enough, but after seeing the reality i will be inclined to keep her home next year for the half day as well.
    the classroom is too small, the teachers are overrun and the kids are EXHAUSTED at the end of the day. the din in the room is so brutal that when i volunteer in the classroom i walk out with that ringing in my ears i remember from my younger days when i went to parties and such. i could not imagine little kids being able to gain anything from the environment they are currently in.
    i would rather see the money being given to parents to decide on the best course of action for their children. or at least not taken from them in the first place.

  16. The sooner the government gets the kids in school the sooner they can start creating little lemmings to do their bidding. Indoctrination starts early. Think of the Sex ed course that starts in kindergarten with teaching that Heather has two moms. That’s okay? NOT! Why confuse the children’s minds at such a young age. Get your kids out of government controlled public schools. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Unfortunately the government makes promises without proper planning or the money to support the plan. The other issue the article does not mention is that the methodology taken by the City of Toronto and the TDSB tiowards the extended care causes higher fees in the younger age groups, jeopardizes the viability of child care and puts many child care centres at financial risk. Parents do not save money, they pay more for younger age groups and are still paying for before and after kinder care. Many kindergarten children have also lost the benefit of a hot nutritious lunch.
    It is a real mess but no one is really talking about it.
    Pascal did not envision class sizes of 30 or more, and many of those working with tte teacher are not actually ECE trained.
    Oh for a truthful and intelligent government. If a private business was run this way they would be closed in a second.

  18. kids are very cute so we care about them.

    kids Kindergarten

  19. The trouble with FDK is that at the age of 4 the government has decided what a child’s day looks like. 4 is very young and all kids require different things. Alot of kiddos still require naps at the age of 4, and a more nurturing environment, some have been in daycare since infancy and are ready to take on a full day of school.

    My child is starting jk at a school that is rolling out FDK in September. My plan is to simply see how it goes. I’m going to do what is best for her. If that means a full day at school, great. If she needs some half days thrown into the week, then that is what I’ll do. I’m going to make the decision – I’m her parent, the Liberals and school board aren’t.

  20. This is a great article and provides a comprehensive analysis of the FDK program in Ontario. However, I would also like to point out that we will need to evaluate the socio-emotional benefits of full-day kindergarten, not just academic outcomes. For example, is FDK beneficial with regards to problem-solving, decision-making, inter-personal relationships etc?

  21. This article talks about how the benefits of more school don’t last because what happens at home is the most important thing for kids development. However, it fails to mention the HUGE focus on parent involvement in Ontario’s FDK program. Parents are welcomed into the class daily, and many change their parenting habits as a result. I believe this will lead to the lasting changes that were not seen in the U.S. Another problem is that the author seems to be blaming Overcrowding on FDK, when really this is the result of explosive growth and poor planning.

    • “Parents are welcomed into the class daily” So are all these parents undergoing full police checks and other checks that childcare providers and teachers are subject to because having unchecked adults around my kid wouldn’t fly with me! Just because someone has a child doesn’t mean they don’t have a criminal record etc……..

  22. I am pleased that another writer has questioned this expense. As an ECE, and a classroom teacher (JK – gr.8, I cannot believe that stuffing preschool kids into an institution for full day K. is a good way for them to spend their time. Bells ringing, announcements, 1:18 ratio, all day in an institution. We need quality full-day care, in a rich, intimate environment, with subsidies for the working poor, and early identification for at-risk kids. My kids all went to day care and are educated and gainfully employed. They don’t need a full day in school.

  23. My daughter loves all day kindergarden, comes home singing new songs and telling me about the life cycle of the butterfly, I’ve noticed only positives.

  24. no one moves to Milton for the schools.

  25. Full day??!! My kids are older now but i wouldn’t put them in a full day kindergarten class. After many years having my kids in a traditional school setting i pulled them out and now homeschool them!!! It has been the best decision for our family!! My only regret is that they ever went to school!! What happened to fostering family time as being a priority! Besides a full day at school my kids always had hours of homework!!! We were never able to have any family time!! I also volunteered in the school system and saw first hand how much time is wasted, and not on education!! I think we should all look at what is of value??for us having a child with special needs who was falling through the cracks made us rethink the school system!! We felt we had no options!! And now feel it was the best decision for our family

  26. Yay lets just undermine the work of the exes by critiquing fdk. Ok it costs money and we need to work out a an but it provides new opportunities for children and more job opportunities though some child cares may be affected . So done kinks need to be worked our. The DNA needs to be updated. And not fdk program may be a quality one but emergent eves who support play based learning can help. And note to the writer eves also stiumkare the child’s develomebtband provide nurturing care and more! We ate not babysitters! I’m a student eve in my bachelor program!

  27. This program is a complete joke. All this is, is overcrowded classrooms and overworked teachers. Put these kids back into CHILD-care where they belong. This is not helping them get a better start to education, it’s putting them behind.
    The commercials make me cringe. They make the classroom look so organized and educational. Have you seen a live classroom in action? Totally opposite from the commercials. You would pull your kids out so fast.
    This is a waste of money and we need to return to the good ol’ days when children were children in a real child related setting.

  28. My son is 1 month into his full day program. He loves it. He’s learned to write his name, the alphabet, ect. He’s excited everyday to go to school and make friends. After only a month I can tell he is miles ahead of his brother at the same age. Ontario would have money if they didn’t waste it on Gas Plants….don’t blame FDK for your tax woes. This is a brilliant program.

  29. My daughter attends full day kindergarten and goes to after school programs and she is thriving/loves it. Granted our teachers are amazing, but I have yet to hear a complaint in any of the four kindergarten classes in town! I would be disappointed if this program gets cut before my son goes through!

  30. So what if FDK is a daycare …if Harper doesn’t want daycare for kids, it is good that Ontario is offering FDK. Ontario can afford it if it stops letting Ottawa take away our tax dollars. It is time for Ontario to look after its own affairs before sending money to Harper to dish out to his favorites.

  31. This article is word for word in line with the Tim Hudaks plan for education. If you get a chance read the provincial conservatives plan for education: get rid of full day kindergarten, apparently throw extra money at special needs and blame the unions. These are three areas named in the first pages of the plan. Unless there is a plan in place to support parents to not return to full paid work, this article supports privatizing early child care where there are less government regulated expectations about the care of children then publicly funded school. (here’s a link for you to see the comparison of the words article to the conservative plan) http://ontariopc.uberflip.com/i/105335

    disappointed Macleans….you do better journalism than this

  32. I see this article as completely glossing over the biggest benefit. Of course kids can get a good education without government run full day kindergarten. They have been doing it for years. The real game changer is the extra 1 or 2 years of WORK from one extra parent from families that otherwise could not afford full day childcare.

    I would be more than willing to put my own money on a bet that the government stands to reel in a whole bunch more in taxes from extra working people. If 100,000 more people were to pay taxes, then the system would be “profitable” directly, not including the ECE educators that would have employment.

    I would also like to debunk the whole raise your own kids nonsense that the right wing spout as truthiness. We both worked full time from our daughter’s 18 mo, right up to now (5 years). One thing that was abundantly apparent was that neither myself nor my wife had enough energy to productively engage our daughter for her waking hours. She thrives on day-care (with an excellent and active program – Active Kids here in Mississauga). She is a very social animal, and makes friends readily with people around her all the time. She is on the cusp of reading, she has good basic arithmetic, and all in all is thriving.

    Sure, we can afford full day kindergarten for her, and we are doing right now – and it is the best thing for her. However, for single and low income parents that were “just” too well off to qualify for subsidy, it was not feasible. Now it is. I don’t begrudge it at all.

  33. Im not happy that im being forced to send my 4 year old to 6 hours of kindergarten.especially after not being able to have children for 20 years.i think is too long.i have to find a private half day kindergarten.

  34. My children’s school is now in its 2nd year of fdk. My daughter started JK in alternating full day, moving to full day in SK. My son has started this year in full day. From personal experience, full day every day is too much for my kids at 4 years old. My daughter barely ate at school – we had to keep her home extra days to simply feed her. However, in SK it seemed to suit her better as she was maturing. My son is currently displaying extreme anxiety from being away from home all day every day, in such a chaotic environment, at such a young age. What I see of the program now is that the smaller kids are left too much to roam and figure out their day on their own; which is too little structure for a 4 year old. As such I plan to send him only a few days a week and my decision is firm. However, I do have the flexibility and freedom to do so, a freedom that I worked hard before having kids to obtain.

    Perhaps the success of the program is highly individualized, depending on the personality of the child, quality of the Teacher/ECE, and the size and composition of the classroom (which can vary widely). It scares me that politicians are touting this program as successful across the board when everyone’s experience seems to vary so widely. I am sure there are kids from vulnerable backgrounds for whom even a chaotic school environment is better than what they experience at home. Those are not my kids though.

    Here is what I find laughable about the whole matter. My friends and I started school at 4 – 6 years old – some of my older friends started school before there was even JK. No Montessori, no competitive sports, no Kumon. We played outside while our mothers cleaned and cooked inside; making forts, digging ditches, catching bugs. Every single one of us went on to higher education (doctors, lawyers, teachers, business people, commercial pilots, wonderful stay at home Moms). We volunteer and donate to charity. We help our neighbours. We contribute to our kids’ schools. We take care of our aging parents. If my kids end up like any of us, I will be a happy parent. Where is the evidence that we need to make our children’s young lives look so drastically different from our own childhoods? I could see if we were all homeless drug addicts now – yes then by all means maybe we need to change something. We are not…we all turned out pretty darned great.

    I can’t however be confident that the road we march down now will yield positive results. I’ve read Hold On To Your Kids, a fantastic book. A book that reflects my childhood experiences dealing with kids who were raised by babysitters and day cares. As a child, I can tell you that most kids who treated me poorly were kids who spent too little time with their parents.

    I’ll close off paraphrasing a comment that I read on a Globe and Mail article a few years ago. The current middle age cohort lives ashamed of how we grew up. We view it as having been low-class, running the streets, playing in the dirt like street urchins. Since we now all like to view ourselves as upper-middle or upper-class with granite countertops and home theatres (heavily mortgaged or not), we want to distance ourselves from our past through our children’s lives. Truer words have never been spoken.

  35. Just finding this now. My son since going to FDK has been having lots and lots of behaviour issues at school that I didn’t have when he was at daycare.
    This article while made me realize that at least I’m not alone, makes me wonder what else am I supposed to do when I’m a single mom with one income and have to work full time. Now I feel guilty that its likely my child has behaviour issues because he was in a daycare center rather than being at home with him.
    He’s in a class with 27 kids and in a room with 68 (there’s 3 classes in one big room). He’s not tired when he gets home but clearly is over stimulated and not getting the attention he needs and is seeking it out in a negative way and I’m at a loss at what to do. I don’t have the money to put him in private school, and I can’t be home with him. So I’m literally stuck relying on the public system which is failing me.