P.E.I. ranked best in the country for early childhood education

According to a new report, when it comes early childhood education P.E.I. is doing the best job in the country.

Report highlights what P.E.I. is doing well, but also opportunities for improvements

Three preschool kids play with colourful blocks.
According to a new report, P.E.I. is leading the country when it comes to early childhood education. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

According to a new report, when it comes early childhood education P.E.I. is doing the best job in the country.

The report was put together by the Atkinson Centre in Ontario. Researchers there gave P.E.I. the top rating for early learning and child care.

"It's really exciting," says Jennifer Matthews, owner of Milestones Early Years Centre in Stratford.

"I think it demonstrates how much effort's been put into the industry over the last three years. You know there's been a lot of focus on early childhood and how it benefits children as they age and become adults, and the importance of it."

What P.E.I. is doing well

Kerry McCuaig, a fellow in early childhood policy at the University of Toronto and co-researcher on the study, said a good governance structure, as well as professional recognition for early childhood educators, are areas where P.E.I. is doing well.

"One of the things you do very well and you're one of the few provinces to do it is that in early years centres, P.E.I. provides equity of access for children with special needs," she said.

Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture Jordan Brown says there will be more money for early childhood education on P.E.I. rolled out later this year. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Jordan Brown, P.E.I.'s minister of education, early learning and culture, says the report is "great news for P.E.I."

"It's something that I think we can be proud of here on Prince Edward Island in terms of our investments in early childhood education. Hopefully we can continue to lead the pack."

Brown said an agreement between the province and federal government for more money that will be rolled out later this year will only help.

Challenges remain

While Matthews is happy with the news of the report, she said there's still room for improvement.

"There's still a lot of children on P.E.I. who aren't necessarily able to participate in an early childhood program, maybe because there's not one in their community, maybe because the costs may still impede their ability. So I think there needs to be some work done around that to ensure that every child has the opportunity to enter into an early childhood program," Matthews said.

Jennifer Matthews says while she's happy about the report, there are still improvements to be made. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The report itself also indicates some challenges. One of those is that Island parents often take children to one place for kindergarten, and another for after-school care, which makes it tough on non-school days.

Jennifer MacKay is starting to think about what she'll do for child care once her son starts kindergarten.

"My child-care provider is in a different school district. So now I have to find somebody else who works around my shift work to watch him before and after school," MacKay said.

Opportunity for improvements

McCuaig said the report should be an opportunity for policy makers to look at gaps, and where improvements can be made. 

"This report was developed in order to reflect Canadian reality. If you put any of the Canadian early childhood systems up against those of Europe, it would still be very far behind," McCuaig said.

"We know Canadian early childhood services systems still have a very long way to go. But what we do want to show is that there has been progress."

With files from Katerina Georgieva