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B.C. government won't divulge details of preschool plan

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Steffenhagen, Janet
Publication Date: 
14 Mar 2010

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It's been more than two years since the B.C. government first
mentioned a plan to offer preschool for three- and four-year-olds as
part of its drive to improve literacy provincewide, but parents still
know little about what's in store.

While the Liberals insist they're committed to offering the
service, they've refused to divulge details, except to say they want to
work with the private sector to open neighbourhood preschools in the
next five years. An Education Ministry spokesman said plans will likely
be unveiled later this year.

For now, the ministry's focus is on its rollout of full-day
kindergarten, beginning this fall when spaces will be available in
public schools for half the province's five-year-olds. By September
2011, full-day kindergarten is expected to be an optional program in
every school, replacing the half-day program.

The government's silence, meanwhile, about its vision for
preschool is feeding worries among those who don't want to see three-
and four-year-olds in school. Some insist that public money should be
spent instead on high-quality child care, which is in short supply.

"We agree with all-day kindergarten [for five-year-olds], but we
have to work really hard to keep it play-based and child-centred,"
Irene Lanzinger, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said in an
interview. "Before [age] five, we should have high-quality, accessible
child care. That should be the priority."

Sharon Gregson, a child care advocate and Vancouver school
trustee, agrees. She said the term "preschool" generally refers to
programs that are offered a few times a week for a couple of hours a
day, and Vancouver already has an abundance of such services. What's
desperately needed is full-day, quality child care, she said, noting
that those facilities have massive wait-lists. "Working parents don't
need part-time, part-day service," she added.

While congratulating the government for acknowledging the
importance of early learning, Gregson said it's well past time the
Liberals explained where they're heading rather than simply dropping
vague comments about early learning in two throne speeches and a budget
and leaving the public in the dark. "It's so difficult to know what the
heck they're talking about," she said.


The key ingredients of any preschool program, according to the
early-learning agency, are choice, quality and staged implementation
that will allow proper preparations. The benefits for children include
improvements in reading, writing, math, social development, work
habits, motor skills and performance on standardized tests, its report

The agency suggested that new preschools could involve existing
preschool and child care providers and said parents should be offered
early learning with wraparound child care

Entered Date: 
18 Mar 2010
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