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EDITORIAL: Young minds and earlier opportunities


The pre-primary school program initiated by Nova Scotia this year falls into the great idea in theory category, but one that raises questions.

It almost sounds like its implementation took the province itself by surprise, since some regions have yet to hire the necessary staff and are expected to open later in the month.

No question, some children are indeed ready by age four to tackle some learning in an organized, more socialized setting. Some of course aren’t, but it’s good for parents to have the option. The program is described as play-based learning, and it’s not hard to see that’s the way to go with young learners.

But on the one hand, we’re hearing concerns from people running educational programs for the pre-school set in daycares and learning centres. As the province works to set up its public system, these people are worried the private institutions could be slowly drained of their staff.

Yarmouth's Tri-County board was the only one as of this week to have all its staff in place. Schools have a deadline up until the end of the month to have their employees and the program set up.

There’s no wonder that getting a new public program like this off the ground will have its challenges. It’s also seeing a gradual implementation across the province. In Pictou County, for example, for this year it was at first only available at New Glasgow Academy, although Trenton Elementary has since been added.

We can only speculate how that limited availability might disappoint some parents around the county. It also raises the question of just how long it might be before the program is widely available – universal as we like to call these things in Canada, meaning no one has an artificial advantage due to their location or socio-economic factors.

The program has plenty to be optimistic sounding. Educators often talk about the advantages of offering children an early start in challenging their minds and abilities.

It’s one way to get student numbers up, especially opportune in schools that need it. There will, however, also be schools crowded to the rafters, considering the occasional closing here and there, that really won’t want to see any new influx.

In general, accessible, affordable child care has long been an issue in Canada, with questions about whether it should be subsidized by governments. To that end, some provinces are more enthusiastic about the idea than others.

But the current division of opinion in Nova Scotia about the new preprimary program and how it will impact daycares in the private sector and their staffing levels raises a question.

Perhaps those centres could have been considered in the overall picture. Increased support to expand their capacity and provide sufficient early childhood educators might be one way to make this program for four-year-olds more accessible across the province, including in smaller centres and rural areas.

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