Early Years Study 1 (1999)

Reversing the Real Brain Drain

In 1999, the Hon. Margaret McCain​ and Dr. Fraser Mustard came together as co-chairs of a team assembled to advise the Ontario government on how to improve outcomes of young children.

At the time, economists were concerned that school was not preparing kids for the high tech economy. Also, many high-profile Canadians were taking their talent to the United States. Mrs. McCain and Dr. Mustard extensively reviewed literature and met with international experts in child development. The results were summarized in the seminal Early Years Study: Reversing the Real Brain Drain.

Highlights of Early Years Study 1:

  • EYS1 introduced a framework of understanding about how children's early experiences are critical in shaping their development.
  • It revealed that when children lack adequate nurturing and stimulation in early childhood, Canada overlooks its best potential talent.
  • It called on governments to create a first-tier program for early childhood education that would be as crucial as the elementary and secondary school system, as well as postsecondary education.
  • It championed the EDI as a powerful tool to  monitor how children are doing across communities, regions, and provinces.

What Early Years Study: Reversing the Real Brain Drain Achieved:

  • This landmark report became a conversation changer, sparking widespread interest in how experiences in early childhood shape the architecture and function of the brain, with lifelong consequences for the individual, and for society.
  • Toronto First Duty, a partnership of the city’s children’s services, school board, and community agencies, took up the challenge to test drive the study’s central recommendation to establish early years centres that integrated kindergarten, licensed child care, and family programs in schools.
  • Based on recommendations outlined in EYS1, the federal government expanded parental leave benefits from 6 months to one year, and the Early Development Instrument (EDI) was launched in Canada and internationally.
  • The socioeconomic status (SES) gradient in child outcome data led to a shift from targeted programs for vulnerable children to universal approaches in early child development.  
  • EYS1 influenced the work of The World Bank, The Aga Khan Network, UNICEF, George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, and governments and research centres across Australia in promoting further investment in ECE and early child development.