All children deserve a fair start in life and investing in early childhood education and care is one of the best ways to achieve this goal.
Studies show that a child’s early years are some of the most important for the development and learning that will set them on the right track for life, with higher educational and professional attainment, lower risk for conflict with the justice system and better physical and mental health. Equal access to ECEC must be a key component in our scheme of universal social programs that ground a productive and healthy Alberta. And by giving all children a fair start, we all benefit.
- Alberta currently has significant limitations in the delivery of a comprehensive, universal ECEC programme in that it has the third highest childcare fees in the country, the third lowest per capita number of spaces at one for every five children and a reliance on a web of subsidies and tax credits to get parents some support for encouraging participation in ECEC.
- According to early development index results from the Early Child Development Mapping Project, one third of Alberta’s young children are experiencing great difficulty in at least one development area, compared to the Canadian norm of 25 per cent.
- A thorough literature review found widespread agreement in the academic literature that ECEC programs tend to significantly improve cognitive abilities, future economic well-being and social outcomes for all children, but especially disadvantaged children.
- ECEC produces an average immediate equivalent effect of a boost of seven or eight points on an IQ test, or a move from the 30th to the 50th percentile for achievement test scores. This is enough to close the school readiness gap between kids in poverty and the average.
- Studies in lower income groups in the United States found that children who participated in ECEC programs were less likely to receive special education, to repeat a grade and to be arrested by age 21 and more likely to finish high school.
- High quality ECEC also improves the physical and mental health of children later in life. A study in Sweden found that increasing access to quality childcare improved the physical health of children and significantly improved the development and psychological conditions, including, for example, a 25 per cent lower probability for developmental impairments. These effects are particularly distinct for children from low income families.
- Higher-quality ECEC is associated with better cognitive and language development, positive peer relations, compliance with adults, fewer behaviour problems, and better mother–child relations.