Today's report in the Globe is not surprising to me. To be honest, I've always had my reservations about the proposed full day kindergarten and I was relieved that my now Grade 1 student, was in alternate-day JK and SK with an incredible teacher.
Introduced in 2010 by the Liberals in Ontario, the study now says that even Alberta and Manitoba have decided AGAINST full day kindergarten because of cost, but I wonder if it's more about the results of studies like this one? I assume they meant financial cost, but what is the true cost to our kids and their teachers?
I volunteer a lot at school and I'm even on the Parent Council Executive, so I think I have a pretty good inside look at the students and the teachers. Since the full day was introduced at our school this past fall, I've seen a huge reorganizing and hiring of new junior teachers, disruptive construction while building an addition for the new kindergarden classes and a general morale decline in the kindergarten teachers. The teachers and their assistants seem overwhelmed with the increased class size and less structured curriculum. With the focus on play-based learning and less on reading, writing and number recognition, our kids are actually getting less time listening to actual lessons than ever before.
Grade one is a huge change and I've seen the struggles my son has had this year with the new expectations. The focus on reading, demands of sitting for the majority of the day, being expected to write fluently and even the introduction of tests in math and science are already gigantic leaps in learning skills. This study has suggested that while the kids in full-day kindergarten seem well prepared socially, they don't seem ready for the demands of higher grades. I couldn't imagine how ill-prepared my son would have been had he been in a kindergarten class with more emphasis on play and social skills than on the fundamentals.
Full-day kindergartners did appear significantly better in their vocabulary and their ability to control their behaviour and engage in play-based tasks, yet lagged behind in reading, writing and number recognition. I do however, agree with Mary Louise Vanderlee, an associate professor at Brock University in the faculty of education and an early childhood development expert, when she said "right now I do not believe there’s an extensive carry-over of practices from the full-day learning into the Grade 1 program, and I think if there was, then you might see a continuum of advancement from those children who were advanced to begin with, coming into that class,” she said.
Maybe, in time, we can find an acceptable balance between the social skills and play-based learning and the fundamentals, so that our kids can enter into Grade 1 and 2 fully prepared to meet the expectations that lead to school success.
Read the full The Globe & Mail article.