Photos from the 2011 Federal Election

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's wrong with full-day Kindergarten?

I've written and posted on this blog before about our overpriced, and over-managed education system that limits the options of parents in Markham and throughout Ontario with regard to their children's education.
A recent discussion in the Markham Economist & Sun about the Liberal government's plan to expand kindergarten has given me the opportunity to publicize my views in that newspaper's "Letters section." 
If you read the link you will see that there is disagreement around the appropriateness of full-day kindergarten for some students. It doesn't work for everyone and some studies show that it really isn't cost effective. For example: the clipping below right is from a study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy that deals with evidence-based effects of class size reductions and full-day kindergarten on test-score outcomes of students. For full-day kindergarten it shows that there is an effect on scores compared to half-day kindergarten, but the effect all but disappears by the end of Grade One and is gone by Grade Five.
In a follow-up letter to the Markham Economist & Sun article, one of the YRDSB trustees (see below) pointed out that kindergarten is optional. Well, that sent me to my computer and I recycled older files to produce the following letter: 

Re: Children don’t have to attend kindergarten May 14th, 2011

To the Editor,

I’m certain we all feel reassured by the letter from YRDSB Trustee Joel Hertz.

Mr. Hertz assures parents that they can opt out of sending their children to full-day kindergarten. It is great to have that choice. It would be even better if parents could opt out, or at least redirect their school-based taxes to schools of their own choice.
Mr. Hertz also highlights the report by Charles Pascal indicating, “Full-day kindergarten can result in greater academic achievement and social success.”

Pascal’s report called for kindergarten classes of 26 students supervised by a teacher and an early childhood educator (ECE). Daycare would also be offered and supervised by ECE people at a reasonable fee at the same location from 7 am to 6 pm outside of the regular school day. This day care could be extended to 6 to 12 year olds if there is sufficient demand. The recession has delayed full implementation, but it is being phased in, and that will be completed by Sept. 2015, with initial costs of $500 million in the first two years and likely beyond the recently revised estimate of $1.5 billion.

Superficially it may appear that this program identifies children’s problems earlier so they can be dealt with earlier, and it benefits all other children, but the evidence for that is scant. Even if there was good evidence, is it really cost effective or desirable?

I should add that there is plenty of evidence that shows that the benefits accrued to children in the full-day program seems to disappear by the time the children leave the primary division (before Grade 5).

What else is wrong with full-day kindergarten?

It increases the government’s monopoly on education, while increasing the size of the public sector at the expense of private sector day and childcare, and reduces choice. It replaces market incentivized childcare workers with less accountable, less competitive, unionized teachers and ECE employees at greater cost. It further increases the dependence of citizens on government-sponsored programs. And it creates a new government-union partnership that invites province-wide daycare strikes in the future when the partners disagree.
As long as educators have no incentive to make substantive improvements, most will continue to behave as before and Ontario schools will strive to reach mediocrity at a high price.

By the way, you may be interested in this article about the limits of the welfare state from the Swedish perspective. Is Canada moving in that direction?


  1. My daughter will be starting JK next year (2013). I am not happy about full day kindergarten. Fortunately the school I plan to send my daughter to has structured their program so that if parents wish to pick up their kindergarten children at lunch, they will not be missing any of the academic portion of the program (it's not a public school ... don't even get me started on the failings of that system). I wish there was more research done about the benefits of parents teaching their young children at home. I agree that full day kindergarten may benefit those kids who are left in childcare all day while parents are working (to afford childcare). But what about us few remaining stay at home parents? I feel like we have no one speaking for us.

    1. Which school did you end up sending your daughter to?