Early Years Study 2 – Canada ranks last among 30 OECD nations when it comes to investment in early childhood education, The Council for Early Child Development

CBC News

One of the country’s foremost experts in early childhood development says Canada ranks last among developed nations when it comes to investment in early childhood education.

While the number of early childhood programs in Canada has increased over the past decade, the programs remain disorganized and scattered across various communities, Dr. Fraser Mustard said Monday.

“What we have early in terms of early childhood development, which is in this report, is chaos,” he said. “And the question is how do you get order out of chaos?”

The 185-page report co-authored by Mustard ranks Canada last among 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD includes the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and Mexico.

The report found Canada spends just one-quarter of one per cent of its GDP on early childhood programs, while other OECD countries spend up to two percent.

Mustard said the country needs to create community hubs with child care centres, highly trained staff and extensive support programs for parents all under one roof.

Opposition targets Harper

Opposition leaders in Ottawa cited the report’s findings Monday in question period in their attack on the Conservative government’s latest budget, which they claim failed to address the needs of Canadian children and families. Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion said the report showed Ottawa must resurrect the national early learning and child care program secured with the provinces before the last election – a plan the Tories shelved upon gaining office.

“The former Liberal government had a plan,” he said. “Why on earth did the Conservative government cut this plan?”

The Conservatives have said they are supporting parents directly through their $100-a-month universal child care benefit and transferring funds to the provinces to bolster their own child care programs.

‘Set the trajectory’

The early years have been shown to “set the trajectory” for how well a child does in school, as well as shape future social adjustment and health, Dr. Stuart Shanker told CBC News Online Monday.

But Shanker also said boosting funds won’t help unless a concrete plan is developed to reorganize the patchwork of programs across the country. “It’s not a case of ‘let’s throw a whole whack of money and the problem will go away,'” he said. “What we’re proposing is a preventative health model.” Shanker said the cost of behavioural and mental health issues triggered by problems in early childhood would drop if the right programs were in place. The report is published by the Council for Early Child Development, a not-for-profit group Mustard founded in 2004.

For more information:
Early Years Study 2: Putting Science into Action