By halifaxwebcam February 8, 2014 Leave a Comment

Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori once said, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.” Indeed, a large amount of research indicates that important cognitive and motor skill development occurs before a child’s fifth birthday. Given the facts, it appears that Canadians would be wise to invest more in early childhood education.

 

An elementary school teacher has the unique opportunity and privilege to help shape the future for many children. Boosting the basic skills of children in the early years can have a direct and dramatic effect on the lives of these children as adults. The gap in income inequality in the country could narrow significantly because children who experience success in school are much more likely to enter college and post-secondary training programs to prepare for a well-paying career.

Canada has experienced a significant increase in income inequality over the past three decades. The lack of government support when a household’s income increases from low to very modest is one of the causes. Another is the lack of adequate, affordable housing. The root of the problem lies deeper and will take more time to correct. An often overlooked dimension, the country is lacking in access to affordable, high quality early childhood education.

Currently, the country provides maternity support for new parents and public education for four and five-year old children, depending on the province. The very important years of between ages three and four are left in a gap. Canadians in the lower half of the income spectrum can not afford quality child care programs for the children left in this gap. More specifically, 70 percent of upper-income Canadians have out-of-home care while 40 percent do not have these services. Except for Quebec, the average parent covers 50 percent of child care cost. The nation ranks fourth highest for those with advanced economies.

A lack of quality child care services impairs skills development in children, setting them up for a future of continued income inequality. Additionally, it reduces the number of low-income adults in the labor market.

Direct public expenditure on public early childhood services must increase to reduce income inequality in Canada. Raising the pay of early childhood educators is one way to invest wisely in the future of the nation. Traditionally, secondary and university educators are paid more than the daycare teachers of toddlers.

The Canadian government would benefit by heeding the advice of Maria Montessori. It is time for the nation to raise the standards and fund early childhood programs. It is an investment for Canada’s future.

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