February 14, 2019 3:50 pm
Updated: February 14, 2019 6:59 pm

Quebec government pushes on with plan to enroll 4-year-olds in preschool

WATCH: The Legault government has announced that it will go ahead to offer preschool to four-year-old children across the province despite reports of overcrowding in many Montreal-area schools. Global's Raquel Fletcher has more.

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Despite reports of overcrowding in many Montreal schools, the Quebec government is going ahead with its promise to offer preschool to four-year-olds across the province.

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge tabled Bill 5 Thursday, noting it will not be obligatory for all parents to send their four-year-olds to preschool.

The option to send four-year-olds to preschool is expected to expand in the 2020-2021 school year. The government’s long-term goal is to make four-year-old preschool accessible to all parents within the next five years.

“I said it during the campaign and I’ll say it again: if we are in politics for one reason, it’s for education and to help children who have difficulties learning,” said Premier François Legault.

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READ MORE: Quebec re-invests in daycare and kindergarten

However, opposition parties have been quick to criticize the plan, saying schools lack the space and the province lacks teachers.

“Yesterday, the minister of education had a conference call with all the school boards and the directors and they all said, ‘we don’t have enough place, we don’t have enough teachers,'” said Marwah Rizqy, the Quebec Liberal’s official opposition critic for education and higher education.

“He [Roberge] has one goal again and it’s to save the premier’s seat.”

Parti Québécois (PQ) second opposition critic for education Véronique Hivon argued, “why the obsession with preschool at four years old?”

WATCH BELOW: What are the advantages of starting kindergarten at the age of four?

On Tuesday, Quebec’s subsidized daycares (CPE) released statistics from a Léger Marketing survey that found most parents prefer to send their four-year-olds to CPEs.

READ MORE: Ottawa signs $7B national child care deal with provinces

About 49 per cent of parents said they preferred CPEs while 19 per cent said they preferred to enroll their children in preschool.

Others chose: family daycare (11 per cent), private daycare (eight per cent) and staying at home with a family member or subsidized private daycare (seven per cent respectively).

WATCH BELOW: Quebec subsidized daycares, a model to emulate?

In terms of quality of care, 51 per cent of parents surveyed said they believe CPEs are best-suited to their children — compared to six per cent of parents said they thought preschool was better.

READ MORE: Quebec government needs to intervene to increase graduation rate: expert

For children with special needs, 50 per cent of parents said they felt CPEs had the best services (54 per cent, when it came to screening); 14 per cent said they felt preschool was the better option (15 per cent for screening capabilities).

“The government has to to look at these results,” said Geneviève Bélisle, director general of the Association québécoise des centres de la petite enfance (AQCPE).

WATCH BELOW: Quebec announces investment in early childhood education

She pointed out that the biggest obstacle for the CPEs is the number of places available for children, arguing the reason the AQCPE requested the Léger Marketing survey was because it felt parents hadn’t been consulted.

“Like the premier, we feel the urgent need to make sure all our children succeed,” Bélisle said.

“But we can’t confuse the objective and the means. The CPEs have proven their worth. The parents recognize this and they want to send their children to the daycares.”

READ MORE: Quebec government accused of trying to dismantle daycare system by employees

About 1,002 respondents from Quebec with children aged zero to five answered questions between Dec. 18, 2018 and Jan. 2, 2019.

WATCH BELOW: Russell Copeman on Quebec’s plan to extend kindergarten to four-year-olds

One proponent of four year old pre-school is Laval University associate professor in the faculty of education, Égide Royer. He says it is the best way to provide early intervention.

“Despite of the services offered in daycare centres right now, there is still a third of boys and one girl out of five who is demonstrating some kind of problem,” said Royer.

He said Quebec’s school success rates are lower than other provinces where four year old pre-school already exists.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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