EARLY CHILDHOOD STUDENTS NOT BABYSITTERS

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By Stacey Askew

A study released Monday stated Canada’s childcare system is the least funded out of 30 other developed nations. Scientific data included in the report showed education in the first six years of life is crucial to child development.

Ryerson Early Childhood Education professor Debbie Chant said the study, Early Years Study 2, shows they are on the right track. “It’s been helpful to have feed back on the programs so we know they are benefiting children and families.”

At the release, co-author and foremost Canadian expert on child development, Dr. Fraser Mustard, said there are three steps that should be taken to ensure that proper education occurs. Improve education, and consequently output of future generations, get parents involved in development of their child and monitor children’s progress. Monitoring progress includes recognizing obvious learning disabilities and using scientific methods to obtain data of all students to show progress, which will show the programs’ effectiveness in the short term.

“The document defines problems and defines what you can do,” said Mustard, “The question is; are you prepared to do it?”

At Ryerson, Rachel Langford, Director of the ECE program, said students are already learning to implement many of Mustard’s ideas. Students have the option to take courses and placements in which they learn to help parents assist in their own child’s development. They also take classes in special needs and extra support needs in order to help them recognize children who are having trouble.

Langford thinks the study, which is an adaptation of one published eight years ago, could potentially serve a similar purpose. The first was used by the Liberal government to rally for extra early childhood education funding just before the 2006 election. When the Conservatives won the funding was replaced by a cheque to each household to allow a ‘choice’ in childcare.

“For that reason these are very helpful,” said Langford but she was skeptical still, “I wonder what’s going to change some peoples’ views around this.”

Langford said the majority of students in ECE don’t end up working in ECE centres. After spending four years getting a degree they are more inclined to fill research, masters or other related positions, which have better salaries. Most ECE centres employ people with diplomas.

“Some do go into childcare, which is wonderful, we really like when that happens because we get the best in childcare setting,” she said.

He also said he hopes the study will put ECE professionals in a better light.

“It’s gotten a nursery school feel from a lot of outlets. It’s a profession, we want to make it a professional field. We’re not babysitters, we’re much more than that.”

This year’s budget promises $2.2 billion for early childhood development “which will help to ensure that our children get the best possible start in life, arriving at school ready to learn and equipped to succeed” according to the budget.

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