Students vulnerable entering Kindergarten: EDI statistics

Christine Wood, Sunshine Coast Reporter

A report done by the Human Early Learning Partnership for the Business Council of British Columbia in 2009 showed that the costs associated with vulnerabilities in children as they age and need services is equivalent to $401 billion plus 3.5 per cent interest each year for the province.

The latest Early Development Instrument (EDI) numbers show more than 30 per cent of students in B.C. are entering kindergarten vulnerable on one or more levels. On the Coast that number is even higher at 32.6 per cent.

The EDI study is the result of a partnership between the Association of BC School Trustees, the Canadian Council on Learning and the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Children who enter school vulnerable may have difficulties in social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, physical health and well-being and communication. Those are the five areas the EDI measures and has been monitoring in our province since 2001.

School District No. 46 early learning co-ordinator Kirsten Deasey said people should not look at the numbers and assume the problem is related to poverty.

“While the poor are usually assumed to be the ones vulnerable, the majority of vulnerable children in B.C. reside in the most populous middle class,” said Deasey. “People always think we need targeted programs, but we need programs that are universal. We need universal childcare and universal education. We just need to get parents to learn about the research, and then we need to get books into their hands and research into their hands.”

Deasey said that vulnerabilities in childhood have been linked to difficulties later in life.

“There is definitely a huge health component. There’s a mental health component with depression being one of the most cited links to difficulties in early childhood, and then there’s behavior or criminality,” she said.

“Basically by not doing anything we are throwing away $401 billion plus interest,” Deasey said….

She would like to see lower early learning and quality child care costs in B.C. and have “realistic full-time employment standards.”

Higher income supports and improvements to early learning programs would be beneficial as well as a mandatory screening of children at 18 months to assess any vulnerabilities at that time.

The province has the goal of reducing vulnerabilities in B.C. by 15 per cent by 2015, but Deasey said it will take a lot of financial backing to create any lasting change…

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