The government of Quebec announced Tuesday morning that it’s investing $1.4 billion (over five years) into early childhood education with the goal to give each child the chance to succeed regardless of their parents’ income.
Most of that money has already been earmarked for daycares and education, but the government is setting aside $350 million in new money over the next five years in its latest strategy aimed at the youngest Quebecers.
Investing in early childhood education is something an expert advised the government to do at a Liberal Party convention back in 2016.
Premier Philippe Couillard said the government has taken note of the research. Ensuring students have the basic reading, writing and math skills at an early age, can mean higher graduation rates. Quebec’s graduation rate is about 12 per cent lower than Ontario’s.
As part of its strategy, the government will hire 8,000 more professionals in the school system, “people helping, for example, kids with learning disabilities, speech difficulties,” Premier Couillard explained.
Quebec will also make eye exams available in schools so that students don’t struggle simply because they can’t see the board. All kids in underprivileged neighbourhoods will have access to kindergarten at four years old and schools in those areas will serve their students breakfast.
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“If we really look at the minister of education, he started with a vision, and he’s working down the list and making it happen. First, he put the skeleton there and now we’re seeing the bones come onto the skeleton,” said Corinne Payne, president of the Quebec Federation of Parent Committees.
However, some educators foresee challenges.
“The Eastern Townships have a lot of territory that is far from where specialists would normally be available and functional, said Michael Murray, the chairman of the Eastern Townships School Board.
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On top of that, the government acknowledges a province-wide labour shortage. Murray says the five-year timeline of the strategy is “tight.”
“But we can begin. We can get things started,” Murray said.
Perhaps, the biggest challenge might be holding the government to its promises, keeping in mind, it might not be the same government that’s elected nine months from now.