Though kindergarden for four-year-olds is an educational and preventive measure that remains relevant today for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not frequent any other education service, its universal implementation is unnecessary. Over time, Québec has developed a proven and unique childcare education model that Quebecers are proud of.

A variety of public services are now available and meet the needs of four-year-olds and their families: home childcare providers, childcare centres, kindergarten for four-year-olds from underpriledged backgrounds (full-time or part-time), and the Passe-Partout1 program. What’s more is that these services are provided by qualified personnel committed to the development of children.

Furthermore, both childcare workers and teachers in full-time kindergarten for four-year-olds work to identify the developmental vulnerabilities of young children. The government’s argument that universal kindergarten for four-year-olds would enable to identify difficulties early on simply does not hold water.

Focusing on the right priorities

The government plans on making a considerable investment in its universal kindergarten program for four-year-olds. As such, the plan would run $400-$700 million per year, without counting infrastructure costs. Rather than being stubborn about it, the government should use these amounts to improve existing services by focusing on the right priorities.

These include:

  • Creating enough spots in the public network of early childhood education services.
  • Hire enough professional and support personnel to identify children at risk and take charge of them rapidly.
  • Review the size of full-time kindergarten classes forfour-year-olds in underpriviledged neighbourhoods.
  • Provide full-time kindergarten classes for four-year-olds in underpriviledged neighbourhoods with physical resources and materials adapted to four-year-olds.
  • Ensure a better transition between early childhood and school, notably with the help of navigators responsible for coordinating the actions of each person during this very important stage.
  • Improve the Passe-Partout program.

In summary, there is no shortage of priorities! And yet, the government insists on going ahead with this project. During the coming weeks and months, CSQ will continue to condemn the bill during consultations in parliamentary committee, among others. We will be there to push the government to focus on the right priorities.

A bit of history

Kindergarten for four-year-olds first emerged in the 1970s at a time when the difficulties in social and educational adaptation experienced by children from underpriviledged neighbourhoods became fully apparent.

It is within this context that the first part-time kindergarten classes were created for these children. A few years later, the Passe-Partout program was launched to provide parents from disadvantaged neighbourhoods with the tools needed to support their children’s education.

These initiatives contributed to making schools a part of the greater fight against poverty. Regulated and subsidized early childcare services followed.

In 2013, it was found that four-year-olds from underpriviledged backgrounds attended early childhood education services less as their parents tended to rely less on these services. In response, kindergarten for four-year-olds was created to complement the existing early childhood education service offering.

1 The Passe-Partout program, overseen by the ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, focuses on supporting the parenting abilities of families whose children are entering school.