Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pathways to Success

I was recently brought up to date on a facinating study and action program called the Pathways to Success Coalition.  This international study examines a country's program to prepare their youngest citizens (ages birth to six years) for their life ahead.  They look at the child's physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and thinking skills, and communication skills and general knowledge.  Thousands of kids have been tested around the world.  The results have been posted in the form of a report card. 

Those results are rather alarming for Canadians.

Canada scored a disappointing 24th among the nations of the world!  Sweden scored the highest!  Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Hungary, New  Zealand, Slovenia, Austria, Netherlands, U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, South Korea, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, U.S.A. and Australia all came ahead of Canada!

That means that the young kids (0-6 years old) in all those countries have a better chance of success than the kids in Canada!  Maybe Canadian kids catch up when the enter grade school.  That's possible.  But I think parents would want to make sure their kids have the best opportunity for success as early as possible!

At present, we're not sure on how we address this concern.  More information will be presented in the weeks to come.  As a former educator, this whole process facinates me.  We need to make sure that young Canadian parents have all the tools and strategies available to make sure their kids are successful in the future.  Stay tuned, there's more coming!


  1. You get what you pay for. Canadian governments just don't fund early childhood development and education programs nearly as much as those countries that place near the top of this list.

    For Scandanavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, etc.), spending on early childhood programs is usually about 1.4%-2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the US, it's about 0.5% of GDP. In Canada, it's 0.25% if GDP.

  2. You're absolutely right Rhys! The governments of Canada have shown their utter disinterest in educating our next generations. But throwing money at it won't solve the problems either! We have to create a strategy to improve the situation first. Fifty years ago, a similar problem was found in American inner city kids. The Head Start Program was created. It spawned such fantastic programs as the ECS (Early Childhood Services) and even Sesame Street on TV! And it did address the problem! Quite well I might add!

    1. You're right, Head Start did begin to address the problem in the US.... but a number of those improvements took time to appear, and the whole of the program was (and still is) often at the mercy of political games over its funding -- and thus forced to operate on a shoestring. Even now, Head Start is still a work in progress; some areas are still struggling with early childhood development, particularly in immigrant and native communities.

      I wouldn't advocate simply "throwing money" at early childhood development programs as a solution in itself. A strategy would help, and other countries obviously have some effective ones. Perhaps copying theirs would be a good place to start, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel at the cost of both time and money.

      At the same time, though, moving up from 24th place in early childhood development won't be something bought on the cheap. People just have to decide where their priorities are.

    2. Excellent points Rhys! You're right about Head Start still a living program in the U.S. I wonder why many of the educational boards and officials here in Alberta have dropped the term "ECS" or Early Childhood Services and are calling the pre-grade school program "kindergarten" again!

    3. I don't know the reason for that name change - my uneducated guess would be nostalgia on the part of middle-aged Trustees and administrators who fondly remember "kindergarten" but are too old to remember "ECS."

      Give it a few years, it may well change back again as us "ECS" kids who grew up in the 1980s move into those positions.

      But to be quite honest, I don't think any of that matters to most people. So long as it gets the desired results, really, they can call it whatever they want.

    4. Good point. I only hope that the ECS "SPICE philosophy"* continues and we don't go back to the traditional kindergarten way of things.

      *SPICE stands for Social, Physical, Intellectual, Cultural, and Emotional development.

  3. I saw this article on this intiative in the Airdrie City View, a few days ago - Residents invited to give input on early childhood development