One in five children entering kindergarten on P.E.I. is not ready for school, says a national child development group.

While that result is the best in the country, the Canadian Council on Early Child Development says 20 per cent of Island children unprepared for the classroom is too high.

"[It] is at least double where we could get it down to, had we done a better job in the early years," said council president Clyde Hertzman.

Hertzman met with Premier Robert Ghiz Thursday to ask for a significant increase in investment in early childhood development.

Every few years the council has kindergarten teachers fill out a survey on their students. Asking things like how aggressive are the children, do they get along with others, are they easily distracted, have they read a picture book before they came to school.

These questions are grouped together to specify areas of vulnerability

  • Physical health and well being.
  • Social competence.
  • Emotional maturity.
  • Language and cognitive.
  • Communication skills.

The survey also looks at factors in the general population, such as education levels, income, how often people move, and the percentage of families headed by one parent.

If children are vulnerable in any of these areas, this can hamper their learning, behaviour and their well-being. The current survey looks at results from 2007.

Hertzman brought specific recommendations to the premier. He said children would be better off if government extended parental leave from 12 to 18 months, if they could work fewer hours without losing benefits or seniority, and if they had universal access to high quality daycare.

The council figures programs to improve early childhood development would cost $86 million. Hertzman knows sounds like a lot, but he said the investment would pay off.

"We know that if we bring vulnerability down, the gross domestic product will grow over the long term by about one per cent more for every per cent we bring vulnerability down," he said.

With more investment, Hertzman said, children on P.E.I. will have fewer challenges with school, and will graduate better prepared to enter the work world.