It has been two months since the government trumpeted their move towards providing full-day kindergarten for students entering the education system for the first time in 2016.
The promise made in this year’s budget stood out as a progressive step in the right direction for students, educators and their families. The Liberal Opposition caucus has been lobbying the government on this issue for some time, as full-day kindergarten has many proven benefits for children who have access to it.
But thanks to this government’s indecisiveness, we now see that this promise may have been made with their fingers crossed behind their back.
Due to lack of class space in Mount Pearl, Paradise and other communities, an option now being proposed by the Minister of Education is team-teaching kindergarten students.
This means that children as young as 4 and 5 will spend their first year of formal schooling in a classroom with double or even triple the numbers of students. There are only two possible conclusions to draw from this: either the government has committed to a program that it didn’t plan for effectively, or they promised a program they have no intention in actually delivering.
Full-day kindergarten better prepares children for future schooling, assists with their socialization skills and makes it easier for them to participate in extra-curricular activities.
However, the benefits of this program are only realized if class sizes remain small enough for them to get the attention and support they need. It cannot be delivered without the proper space and staff resources.
Delivering an effective and successful full-day kindergarten program may be an overwhelming task for this government. As we have already seen they neglected to ensure proper planning, given the current overcrowding in urban area schools. A short-sighted solution to enhanced education is really no solution at all, especially if it means our children will suffer as a result.
— Dale Kirby is the Liberal MHA for St. John’s North, and the Opposition Education Critic