Early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion needs to change

The Southern Gazette - - EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT - Edi­tor; Wayne Lu­cas, pres­i­dent CUPE NL

As the prov­ince’s econ­omy continues to boom, New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans agree on at least one thing - our riches should be shared, and I mean riches in the broad­est sense of the word.

Re­cently, I at­tended a sym­po­sium or­ga­nized by the Jimmy Pratt Foun­da­tion on the fu­ture of child care in our prov­ince.

I had the dis­tinct plea­sure of hear­ing two noted Cana­dian econ­o­mists speak about the eco­nomic case for ex­pand­ing early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion and care (ECE) – Craig Alexan­der from On­tario, who works for TD Bank and pro­fes­sor Pierre Fortin from Laval Univer­sity in Que­bec.

These two ex­perts (the banker was the big­gest sur­prise to me) made a rock-solid case for dra­mat­i­cally over­haul­ing our cur­rent hodge­podge sys­tem.

Of course early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion and care is good for the econ­omy. Heck, it’s even good for cap­i­tal­ism, they ar­gued.

Still not con­vinced? Alexan­der, who holds the lofty ti­tle of se­nior vice-pres­i­dent and chief econ­o­mist TD Bank Group, told us that ECE is the key in­gre­di­ent for es­sen­tial skills train­ing and de­vel­op­ment of our work­force. My new banker friend also pitched the value of child­care as an in­equal­ity re­duc­tion strat­egy.

Here’s the prob­lem cur­rently fac­ing New­found­land and Labrador, though. Given the high rate of com­mer­cial­iza­tion in the child­care sec­tor here, most ex­perts will tell you that a pub­licly funded and de­liv­ered sys­tem with­out all lev­els of govern­ment in­volved and in­vested will ul­ti­mately fal­ter.

The good news is we don’t have to rein­vent the wheel. Let’s look at what P.E.I and Que­bec have done to rad­i­cally over­haul their sys­tems, in­clud­ing the grad­ual phas­ing out of for-profit cen­tres.

En­sur­ing high qual­ity, re­li­able, af­ford­able, pub­lic child care that meets the needs of our work­force is some­thing this govern­ment could deliver if it wanted to.

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