This year in Ontario, Canada, a Pre-kindergarten program has been initiated at some schools. Parents were invited to enrol their three-year-old children in full day classes starting in September, 2010. Since these classes are an extension of the regular public school program, there is no cost to the child’s family.
Each class is supervised by a teacher with several aids who are trained in early-childhood education. The classrooms are bright, cheery, and equipped with toys, games, miniature furniture, doll houses, puppet theatres, outdoor equipment, and lots of read-aloud books.
The advantages of the program are numerous, both for parents and children. Among the more obvious are:
* The youngsters are provided with a safe and child-friendly environment. They spend the day with caring adults who attend to their physical, mental and emotional well-being with skill and compassion. If a child has developmental lags in any area, such as in language, they can be addressed by professionals, perhaps a speech pathologist who is in the building regularly to work with older students.
* Readiness skills for reading and mathematics will be taught slowly but thoroughly by a qualified teacher. The classroom teacher is well aware of the skills necessary for later success in academic areas. She will ensure that the children are well-prepared for formal lessons as they approach the elementary grades.
* Pre-kindergarten prepares the children for the routines and structure of the school day, before they enter the regular Kindergarten program. They will learn that it’s necessary to arrive on time, how to line up for washroom and outside play; they will have library time and gym time, snack time, and play time. They will bring their parents to Open House to show off their classroom, just like the “big kids”.
* It helps the children develop social skills and independence at an earlier age. Before long, they learn how to share, to listen quietly to stories, to say “Please”, “Thank you”, and “May I?”, at appropriate times. After a few weeks, they happily take leave of their parent at the classroom door and run in to meet their friends. They are taught good hygiene habits and which food constitutes a healthy snack. Children in the program also seem to mature more quickly. Some will be able to put on their own hats, coats and jackets as the year progresses.
* Having Pre-kindergarten available aids working parents. In today’s economy, many families require two salaries to make ends meet. The fact that there is no need to pay a baby-sitter is a great benefit to families on tight budgets. At the same time, the parents can rest assured that while they work, their child is in competent hands, in a nurturing and educational environment, interacting with other children the same age.
* It is good for the economy. More jobs will be created in the community, among them: teachers, early-childhood workers, support staff, after-school caregivers, and traffic guards. More stay-at-home moms will be encouraged to return to the workforce sooner, because they know their children will be well cared for. As an added incentive, they will not have to pay high fees to a baby-sitter or registered daycare facility.
Not all families wish to take advantage of the program. If the mother enjoys the role of home-maker and spends lots of quality time with her little one, if there are several siblings with whom he can socialize, and if money is not a huge concern, it can be argued convincingly that the child is better off at home.
However, for the majority of families, this is not the case. Here in Ontario, in the autumn of 2010, many parents are grateful for the establishment of the Pre-kindergarten program.