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Canada’s low ranking for enrolment in early childhood education sparks concern for Lethbridge educators

Click to play video 'Canada’s low ranking for enrolment in early childhood education sparks concern for Lethbridge educators' Canada’s low ranking for enrolment in early childhood education sparks concern for Lethbridge educators
Lethbridge educators are reacting to a new study that reveals Canada's enrolment numbers in early childhood education programs are falling behind. Demi Knight reports.

An Early Years Study released this month shows Canada has fallen close to the bottom of the pack for enrolment in early childhood education (ECE) programs.

It’s a result Anita Entz, executive director with the Children’s House Child Care Society in Lethbridge, said could be detrimental to a child’s development.

“This is when the brain is forming and this is when the child forms their way of thinking about the world,” Entz said.

“This is when they make sense of things and this is the base that everything in their entire life will go off of.”

READ MORE: Alberta to provide $50,000 to improve early childhood education

The report shows that Canada ranks 33 out of 35 countries enrolled in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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Early Years Study
Early Years Study. Early Years Study

With only one out of every two children in Canada being enrolled in ECE programs, the report claims affordability as one of the main reasons for the country’s low engagement.

A sentiment echoed by Entz.

“About 50 per cent of our children are siblings, with at least two and sometimes three children in a family. So when parents have to pay $900 to $1000 per child it’s simply not doable,” she said.

The study shows that 19 per cent of Canadian net income will go towards these programs, compared to an average of 12 per cent for the other 34 countries involved in the study.

Jane Bertrand, an author on the study, said more government funding is needed in the future to help Canada bring those costs down and lift enrolment numbers up.

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“We require additional public investment so that we can expand opportunities for more children, and move towards opportunities for everybody,” Bertrand said.

“Canada has actually made a lot of progress in the last 15 years to expand early education opportunities across the country. However other countries have expanded more and gone further, faster.”

Click to play video 'Early childhood educators facing staffing crunch' Early childhood educators facing staffing crunch
Early childhood educators facing staffing crunch

In 2017 the federal government announced a $7.5 billion investment to support higher quality and more affordable child care.

The Alberta government signed a bilateral agreement with the federal government in December 2017, that provides just over $136 million over three years to support the expansion of the Early Learning and Child Care Centres pilot project.

The Children’s House Child Care Society is one of the 122 facilities to receive a portion of this funding and is now able to provide early childhood care for a maximum of $25 a day.

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However, that funding is slated to come to an end next year, and without it, Entz isn’t sure how to proceed.

“The support we’ve received through the pilot project are huge and other centres would love to have that,” Entz said.

“But aside from these pilot projects, we don’t get anything.”

Entz hopes this kind of funding will continue to be top of mind, and even expanded to more centres in the future.

READ MORE: Alberta government warns childcare programs will lose grants in spring

The provincial government released a statement to Global News on Tuesday that said a strong focus on this type of education is already in the works.

“Alberta provides education supports for children in early childhood programming from as young as 2 years, 8 months, and is the only province in Canada that offers programming at that age,” said Colin Aitchison, press secretary for the office of the Minister of Education.

“Our new funding model will reduce red tape and administrative costs for school authorities and early childhood service providers, providing them with the flexibility they need to better address the unique needs of their students.”