School now starts in kindergarten

10th July 1998 at 01:00

Ontario is introducing what it claims is the most rigorous early-childhood education programme of its kind.

The first major overhaul of the kindergarten programme in 50 years is due to start in September, and is a conscious attempt to prepare children for the academic challenges ahead, according to Jerry McIntyre, manager of Ontario's elementary curriculum unit.

The ministry of education says the programme is designed to familiarise children with concepts such as counting, phonics and oral communication skills.

Children will also have a chance to become familiar with technologies being used in schools, such as cassette recorders and computers. The reform does away with the "haphazard" kindergarten programmes that evolved as each school board went its own way.

The province aims to "ensure that all children across Ontario receive the same kindergarten education," says education officer Joanne Van Alstyne.

Support for spelling out the "learning expectations" in language, mathematics, science and technology, personal and social development, and the arts comes from school boards, parents' groups and academics.

Elizabeth Samples, of the Ontario School Boards Association, is "encouraged to see the ministry take a proactive view on what is one of the most critical periods of a child's education".

Carl Corter, who heads Ontario's Institute of Child Study, thinks the ministry has successfully "hooked up the kindergarten enterprise and its goals" to the academic activities that follow without sacrificing the child to the "skill and drill academic regimen".

The province's five teacher unions are also broadly supportive of the new programme, the last curriculum to be written by aministry committee with staffseconded to it.

Marshall Jarvis, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, says that the publication of the kindergarten programme is something of an about-face for the Conservative government that had at one time planned on abolishing junior (four-year-old) kindergarten.

Mr Jarvis has reservations over funding and the government's future plans for testing. Premier Mike Harris has said he would like to test students in every grade.

"If you turn to massive testing, you're going to wind up with a very negative perception in the minds of some of these students as to what learning and education are all about," Mr Jarvis says.

Native tongue: Yanomami Indians in the Amazon are attending schools that focus on their culture

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today