Children who attend an enhanced full-day kindergarten program have a better start and are better prepared for success in first grade, says the government of the Canadian province of Ontario. The government says a study by researchers at Queen’s and McMaster universities supports its decision to introduce full-day kindergarten by next September.
In the past children attended half-day kindergarten at age 5 across the country. Recently, the provinces of British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec have introduced full-day kindergarten. Alberta has delayed introduction of such a program because of budget concerns.
Of the 693 children in this study, those who had full-time kindergarten had reduced risks in social competence development, in language and cognitive development and in communication skills and general knowledge development. They also were typically quicker to adapt to routines and to engage in tasks for longer periods of time.
Researchers like Magdalena Janus, associate professor, McMaster University, emphasized the full-time program included enhanced education and two trained teachers instead of one, and was not simply a doubling of the time spent in current half-day kindergarten programs.
Some opponents of full-time kindergarten have called it an expensive form of government-backed daycare. Others have balked at the projected cost at a time when governments across Canada are looking to trim their budgets.
The advocacy group, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada has cited other studies that indicate improved cognitive outcomes for children in early learning programs are only short-lived and even out over the long term.
Researchers acknowledge they will have to continue to follow the students they studied to see if the benefits of full-day kindergarten will be sustained over the long term.