Next Steps for the Early Childhood Education Report 2011

The Early Childhood Education Report 2011 introduces a new measure that will continue to evolve. The five equally-weighted categories and their benchmarks reflect current research and international reports. The major findings from Early Years Study 3 were used to populate the benchmarks. System-level indices comparing jurisdictions must balance the desire for appropriate, comparable data and the reality of what is available. The content validity of the ECE Report 2011 appears to be good. It is a starting point for conversations about next steps. The review of experts to date suggests it is translating the construct of an integrated early childhood education system into a specific, practical test with observable measures. It is now ready for a period of critical review and broader consultation. Equally important, it is time to study how the Report can be aligned with other Canadian monitoring efforts.
   
The Early Childhood Education Report 2011 will be housed at the Atkinson Centre, Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. The Centre plans to bring together academic expertise to further review the ECE Report and improve aspects of its validity. The Centre will host a series of forums to examine the construction, application and communication of the ECE Report. The Atkinson Centre is exploring the possibility of an international symposium in Fall 2012 to review the Report and other early childhood system monitoring tools.

As Canadians, have great aspirations for our children. We want them to enjoy childhood as they grow to be the best they can be. Awareness of the importance of development in early childhood has caught the attention of policy makers and they have responded. This is an important start. However we can’t overlook the limited number of benchmarks we were able to populate on this report and the constraints that excluded the territories and First Nations. The modesty of the thresholds reflects the persistence of low standards common to the split delivery of ECE systems. Yet there are reasons for celebration. Much progress has been made since the OECD’s international review exposed Canada as an ECE laggard, not all of which can be captured in an report.

Hopefully the ECE report, both in its début and as it is refined through future consultation, will take its place with other public monitoring systems in Canada and internationally to inform public policy in using the most effective means of enriching early learning environments for young children.

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