Removing full-day kindergarten is a bad idea!

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By Sabrina Almeida

All-day kindergarten introduced by Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty in 2014 is the latest program likely to face Doug Ford’s chopping block. Yes, it is still under review but the fact that it is being considered doesn’t bode well for its future after the 2019-20 academic year. As a parent with one child who went through the full-day program while the other missed out—I believe axing it would be detrimental to early childhood education.

My older son reaped the benefits of the all-day program in Connecticut. Eighteen years ago, we had the option of taking him home half-day but chose to let him stay on in school. A few months into that school year, the choice no longer existed as educators decided kids were better off learning all day.

While discussing the option, his kindergarten teacher had explained that afternoon study would utilize creative tools to recap morning lessons. She also said it would prepare him for whole day school in Grade 1. It made sense.

One of the reasons the school later switched to full-day was to prevent adjustment issues in the next year. Several kindergarten kids found it challenging to adhere to the full schedule when they moved up. They were cranky, tired, sleepy and less attentive. All of these were noted as the proposal for the full-day program in Ontario was made almost 15 years later.

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My younger son had to contend with half-day programs when we moved to province in 2004. It was definitely a set back, as he was coming from a full-fledged kindergarten program in Massachusetts. Unfortunately for him, he just got 3 months of it. It was upsetting as the so-called half-day junior and senior kindergarten classes lasted just a few hours and were mostly playtime. Little could be achieved during this short period with the little ones taking some time to settle down and switch activities.

To go backwards is a big mistake in my opinion. Especially with kids being more active and advanced learners now. And it only means that the responsibility of keeping them engaged now falls solely on the parents. Those who are working will also have to budget for daycare. Needless to say, Montessori and preschool programs will be the only ones to benefit if this were to happen.

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After hearing the news on radio and television, I tried to understand the provincial government’s motivation for the review. We’ve all been told it’s about balancing the books… so does that mean taking some teachers off the roster? While I don’t wish to see anyone lose their jobs, larger class sizes are less damaging to the kids than reducing program hours. It may have the same financial outcome. Having been educated in India where classes rarely had less than 40 children and grew to 60 as I moved up, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

Having only one full-day kindergarten instead of junior and senior years like Connecticut and Massachusetts (where we lived initially) might achieve a balance between education quality and the budget. To me this is preferable to having two half-day programs. Of course, the direct entry to full-day school might be difficult for some kids to adjust to. But both my boys went from half-day preschool to full-day kindergarten without a hitch. So, I’m optimistic about it working for most. Or, the junior program could be half-day and the senior a full one.

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Ford’s government plans to hold consultations on the subject. With parents, teachers and education experts, I suppose. Somehow, I don’t see the first two groups being in favour. So how will the decision to go ahead with the cut, if it happens, honour the consultations. After all they still have to live down the axing of the 2015 sex-ed curriculum. Most teachers, educators and even students didn’t agree. Assuming it was only the parents who mattered in this case, this is hardly a scientific approach.

It will be interesting to see how this latest review pans out. As one smart Ontarian pointed out, all the cuts made in the initial years will be bandaged with huge concessions come election time. After all we are only as good as our votes.

The provincial PC government assures us that it is going to do what is best! Hopefully it means for the kids and education and not just erasing the deficit.

Look what happened with the reduction of the Toronto city council! If news reports are to be believed. Number of councillors reduced but budgets increased. Not very fiscally responsible, eh! -CINEWS

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