The influence of the OECD and other international measures

The Starting Strong analysis (2006) identified key elements of successful policy that were common to 20 member countries who took part in the OECD’s review of their early education systems. The ECE Report is rooted in the recommendations of the OECD review. Not all of the 17 major policy areas addressed by the OECD in its Canada report are included in the Report. In some cases they are no longer timely, such as Recommendation 1 (p. 69), which calls for refocusing provincial/territorial/federal ECD agreements. In other important areas, such as the affordability of ECE services, consistent data are not available. Insufficient data also prevented the inclusion of the territories and First Nations in this round, something the originators hope to rectify in future iterations.

Therefore, while being guided by the OECD directions, the selection of benchmarks was limited by the availability of consistent data across jurisdictions and the likelihood that similar information would be available in the future to allow for ongoing monitoring. Benchmark thresholds were influenced by those established by UNICEF in 2008 to promote the potential for continued international comparisons, and those included in the UNESCO 2010 cross-national study on the integration of early childhood education and care (Kaga, Bennett & Moss, 2010). Adapting the Report to Canadian reality, all benchmark thresholds in the ECE Report have been achieved, or are close to being achieved, in at least one jurisdiction.

The authors recognize that there is always sensitivity to monitoring and reluctance to make comparisons. Canada is a very large and highly diverse country. However in the development of other levels of education from elementary through to post-secondary, there has emerged a remarkable similarity based on shared values and evidence-based research. Arm’s-length assessments are part of democratic oversight and allow the sharing of best practices and push for better systems to improve outcomes for children. A parallel rationale exists for early childhood education; indeed, all provinces and territories already agree on a number of comparable inputs to promote program quality, including the need for staff qualifications, child: staff ratios, group size, facilities, etc.

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