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full day kindergarten

More on the Drummond Report…

As some of you know, I have a deep interest in and am involved with Ottawa’s childcare community. One of the working assumptions we have had in our forward planning discussions has been that Full Day Kindergarten would be fully implemented by 2014 / 2015.

But now, I’m betting that the Government will delay implementation of FDK in the upcoming Budget as a compromise solution… thus throwing some of our working assumptions out the proverbial window!

Interesting times…

For the record, I really like his health care recommendations. With a 40% slice of the provincial budget pie, this is the area that needs to be scrutinized and adjusted… but carefully and using evidence-based reasoning.

Drummond report highlights

Posted: Feb 15, 2012 2:49 PM ET

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2012 5:43 PM ET

Highlights of recommendations of the Drummond report on reforming Ontario’s public services:

  • The Ontario government must implement all 362 recommended reforms to restrain program spending growth enough to achieve balance by 2017-18.
  • Cap growth of health-care spending at 2.5 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Increase the use of home-based care.
  • Make the portion of pharmaceutical costs paid for by seniors rise more sharply as income increases.
  • No increase in total compensation for Ontario’s doctors, the best paid in the country.
  • Consider expanding health coverage to include pharmaceuticals, long-term care and aspects of mental health care.
  • Cap growth in primary and secondary education spending at one per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Cap growth in post-secondary education spending (excluding training) at 1.5 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Put “strong pressure” on the federal government to fund on-reserve First Nations education equal to per-student provincial funding for elementary and secondary education. Failing that, the province itself should step up to provide that funding.
  • Cancel the full-day kindergarten program, or delay full implementation from 2014-15 to 2017-18.
  • Increase the average class size from 22 to 24 in Grades 9 to 12 and from 24.5 to 26 in Grades 4 to 8.
  • Set the cap in class size at 23 in primary grades and eliminate the other requirement that 90 per cent of classes must be 20 or fewer.
  • Reject further employer rate increases to the Teachers’ Pension Plan beyond the current rate.
  • Maintain the existing tuition framework, which allows annual tuition increases of five per cent and consider eliminating a newly minted 30-per-cent tuition rebate.
  • Cap growth in social services spending at 0.5 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Decrease program spending in all other areas by 2.4 per cent each year to 2017-18.
  • Higher water bills to recover the full cost of water and wastewater services.
  • Begin charging for parking at GO Transit parking lots.
  • Eliminate the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit “as quickly as possible.”
  • Consider having security providers take over police officers’ “non-core” duties.
  • Negotiate the transfer of responsibility for incarceration for sentences longer than six months to the federal government, up from the current two years.
  • Close one of the two casinos in Niagara Falls and one of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s two head offices.
  • Use licence and registration suspensions as a tool to help collect some Provincial Offences Act fines, allow fines to be added to the offender’s property tax bill and offset tax refunds against such unpaid fines.


Play-based learning

Good article in the Glob and Spew this morning described play-based learning and its benefits for young children.

Essentially, this is a progressive approach to learning that posits that children will learn life tools and skills more happily and readily if presented to them as a part of their “play”, and they will be retained longer and integrated deeper. It also argues that these types of tools and skills are very bit as important as numeracy and literacy. One of these skills is called self-regulation – the ability to control your instinctive reaction to a situation, contemplate your next action and then act in a manner that is socially acceptable and beneficial to you in the long run.

About 40 years ago, researchers at Stanford University developed of way of testing aspects of self-regulation through something called the Marshmallow Test. A group of 4-year-olds were left alone in a room with a marshmallow, and instructed that if they managed not too eat the fluffy treat they’d be given a second one at the end of their wait. About 30 per cent of the kids were able to resist 15 or more minutes of temptation, and held out for a second marshmallow. The researchers followed up with the children as teenagers and adults, and found that those who were able to control their impulses were better adjusted as high school students, scored hundreds of points higher on their SATs, were less likely to be overweight or have drug problems.

These adaptive skills are critical, and as a parent of three children – all of whom attended an institutional daycare at one time of another – I have seen this for myself. By and large, through the approaches taken by their daycares – as well as at home – they have all learned valuable adaptive social skills that have or are paying dividends. And they learned them eagerly because it was fun! I have never been a “flash card” kind of parent and hold that it is more important to discover those hidden social and self-learning skills through playing and exploring as it is to be able to count to 20 by the time they are 18 months old.

Some parents will strongly disagree with this approach.

Even we as adults will absorb knowledge and acquire skills more readily if it is an enjoyable experience. Who among us didn’t have at least one course in our scholastic or professional lives where, after the conclusion of the course, we scratched our head while thinking “good topic, but I would have gotten much more from it if it was presented in a better way…”

“There is a long history of understanding that children learn through play, but one of the things that has tended to happen, it comes particularly from the United States … is this push to do things sooner, harder, to shove academics down to younger and younger children,” said Marilyn Chapman, an early learning expert at the University of British Columbia and lead writer of B.C.’s new kindergarten program.

The reason the American approach doesn’t work? If children are pushed to read, for example, they might learn at an earlier age but research suggests they’re also more likely to become disinterested in reading by the age of eight.

“At the end of the day they don’t like reading and writing and then they don’t want to do it unless they’re forced to; what’s the point?” asked Prof. Chapman.

Exactly. Sure, learning can be forced down their proverbial throats, but are they going to retain it?

Play-based learning is a central pillar of Ontario’s new full day kindergarten program. Good daycares have been doing this for years and now that Boards of Education are assuming the functions of the 3.8 years and older educators, they would do well to speak to these daycares to find out what works and does not work. They will learn much.