Nanaimo educators back full-day kindergarten

Robert Barron, The Daily News

Nanaimo’s educators are skeptical of a report released this week that says full-day kindergarten may have a negative effect on the learning and personal development of some children.

Results from a pilot study by researchers at the University of Western Ontario, focusing on two full-day kindergarten classrooms in that province, concluded that the teachers were often caught in the “tension” that exists between meeting curriculum expectations and teaching to student interests.

The researchers argue that academic goals, centered on results and preparation for standardized tests in later years, are taking away from the play-based learning strategy for full-day kindergarten classes that has been adopted by schools in Ontario, as well as in B.C.

The findings were presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Fredericton.

Elizabeth Pennell is the early learning co-ordinator for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district which, along with the rest of B.C. school districts, will have full-day kindergarten in place in all its elementary schools in September.

She said the results from the 18 elementary schools in Nanaimo-Ladysmith that offered full-day kindergarten for the first time this year are “very positive” and that a play-based curriculum is proving effective.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said reviews of the new all-day program from teachers are “mixed” but district teachers intend to “embrace it” when the program expands in the fall and “do the best they can” for the students.

He said he’s not sure how Ontario is moving forward with its strategies for full-day kindergarten, but while the time students are in the classrooms have doubled in B.C., their academic expectations remain the same.

“This means that teachers and students have twice as many opportunities for play-based learning during the day without any increase in curriculum requirements,” DeGear said…