I. Benchmarks focused on governance for integrated early childhood education

The OECD recommended that Canadian jurisdictions take steps to “build bridges between child care and kindergarten education, with the aim of integrating ECEC both at ground level and at policy and management levels” (p. 71). Evaluations demonstrate the importance of assigning responsibility for young children to one ministry that combines policy making, funding and regulatory powers. A single ministry/department facilitates the development of a common vision of early education, with agreed-upon objectives. Split administration tends to entrench child care as a welfare service with all its inherent weaknesses—poor public perception, poor funding and underpaid and undertrained staff. Canadian research reveals the cost returns from combining education and care at the service delivery level to support parents’ workforce participation (EYS 3, chapter 4). Common oversight also avoids the duplication of administrations and budgets. From a pedagogical perspective, integrating education and care allows administrators and educators to better address the continuum of learning that begins at birth and continues throughout life.

Because of the importance of leadership and governance in a still underdeveloped sector, four benchmarks are allocated to governance of ECE systems.

Benchmark 1: ECE under common department/ ministry

The minimum for the benchmark is a single ministry/department with oversight for child care as well as kindergarten and other education-funded preschool programming (see Figure 5.13).

Benchmark 2: Common ECE supervisory unit

This benchmark drills down to see if integration has gone beyond co-locating the two streams under the same roof while they still operate as distinct entities. It assesses whether all ECE services are under a common supervisory unit, where specialized staff members have shared responsibilities for both public (school-offered) and private (child care/preschool) ECE programs (see Figure 5.13).

Benchmark 3: Common ECE policy framework

Administrators, systems managers and educators need a clear, and clearly communicated, policy direction, with vision, objectives, timelines and benchmarks to guide their work. Some provinces have developed policy directions for child care and/or school-offered ECE programs. The minimum for this benchmark determines if policy directions encompass both education and child care/preschool, aligning them to support the learning continuum (see Figure 5.13).

Benchmark 4: Common local authority for ECE management and administration

The integration of policy frameworks at the provincial level should be reflected in service management and delivery on the ground, thereby removing the necessity of parents and children to navigate between service silos. All ECE services, both public and private, should link to a common local authority responsible for supporting standards reflected in provincial policies. Local authorities would be responsible for organizing ECE service delivery to facilitate smooth transitions from preschool into the primary grades. Some progress has been made by having school boards offer both education and child care for kindergarten and school-aged children, but no province directs a local authority to manage the continuum of ECE programming. It is acknowledged that there are many collaborative tables including education and children’s service providers. These bodies are not mandated to enforce systems delivery or quality standards. The benchmark requires local governance with this level of authority (see Figure 5.13).

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