This week Dalton McGuinty announced the list of schools that will be offering full day kindergarten this September and it’s been all the talk. By 2015 it is expected that all Ontario schools will offer full day kindergarten at an estimated cost of 1.5 billion dollars per year.
Most families I know are really happy about this program I can understand that. This will save many families a lot of money. I don’t begrudge them of that.
Personally, I’m not that excited about it. I don’t expect that it will affect our family. Thankfully, our school is not one of the 71 Toronto schools (almost 600 in Ontario) that will offer this program this September. So for me that means that only my youngest (who will start school in 2011) might be eligible, and she may well be out of kindergarten before our school becomes one of the ones offering it. I say thankfully because I’m glad that I won’t even have to worry about it for at least two years and perhaps not at all.
If you asked me right now, if my two kindergarten boys would go all day if they could, I’d say “no way.” Why? For many reasons but mostly because I’m a stay at home mum and 3 of my 4 kids have birthdays late in the year. So for me it seems too young for them to be away from me for that long. Also because I don’t really see that my kids will benefit from more hours at school at that age.
I don’t question the benefits of early learning. I think it’s pretty well accepted that it is beneficial. I’m just not convinced that this is the motive behind the program and I kind of feel like we’re all being lied to. Can we please just call it what it is? It’s publicly funded childcare.
The Ontario Ministry of Education’s website calls the program “part of the province’s plan to build a stronger school system and a well-educated workforce.” Really? Adding an extra 2.5 hours or so a day for four and five year olds is going to build a well-educated workforce? Come on. I have a hard time buying that (and I’d love to know on what they base this prediction).
When this topic has come up in conversation, I always hear happy parents talking about how much money they will save. I think it’s great that this will be helpful to families – I really, really do. But answer me this: aside from saving families money, what are the benefits? Are you excited about all day kindergarten? Other than potential savings, why? Do you think this is going to make your children smarter? Happier? More “well-educated”?
Please understand friends, it’s not that I think there is anything wrong with all day kindergarten. I don’t. For kids that are in childcare I don’t think it’s going to make any difference at all. For kids that aren’t, I’m sure it will be fine too. One friend pointed out to me that 2.5 hours a day in kindergarten is arbitrary and was established at a time when most families had a stay at home parent. Well, isn’t 6 hour kindergarten arbitrary too? I just feel like we’re being sold snake oil here.
Can we just say that this part of an answer to a childcare problem that we’ve been facing for ages? You know, the shortage of affordable and accessible childcare for which advocates have been lobbying the government for a solution, for years. It is part of a solution that people have been asking for, for as long as I have had kids (and much longer, I’m sure. I only started paying attention to these kinds of things after I had kids.) Why are we calling it something else?