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Early Childhood Education in Ontario

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Early childhood education is such an integral part of a child’s life and there are so many programs available within Ontario that could not be run without the addition of an educator. EarlyOn Centers and Kindergarten are two specific programs of interest include and will be the focus of the following paper. The differences and similarities between the two will be explored, with concentration placed distinctly on educator responsibilities, curriculum frameworks and pedagogies and how early childhood educators are impacted in each setting. Before diving into the responsibilities of an educator may have in each setting, it is worth breaking down what EarlyOn centers and Kindergartens are exactly.

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EarlyOn Centres are often also referred to as EarlyON Child and Family Centres and they are basically free programs offered to children from birth to age six and their parents/caregivers. The programs aim to build or strengthen relationships, promote healthy child development and offer support to families. 

According to the City of Toronto (2018), “these Centres were previously known under four different names: Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, Better Beginnings Better Futures Programs and family resource programs,” and these services are now all grouped under the umbrella term, EarlyOn Centers. Kindergarten is a more universally known term as it is a program made available in schools within Ontario extended to four and five-year-old children. The full-day program is child-centred and places focus on “how young children learn” (Ontario, 2019).

The specific responsibilities of an educator off the top of one’s head include creating inclusive environments, building relationships with children and families and ultimately providing nurturing environments in which to share knowledge. EarlyON centres take these responsibilities into consideration and elaborate on them extensively. For example, a resource published by Holmes (2016), explains the obligations educators have in the early learning classroom to carefully design a program that is versatile and still supports the development of the holistic child and encourages independence. 

Aside from the duty educators have to extend learning, they also take it upon themselves to establish comfortable connections with families by offering constant support and resources for a range of topics they may inquire about (Holmes, 2016). Educators at EarlyON also make sure to address any pressing questions parents and caregivers may have about the Ontario kindergarten program, regarding kindergarten expectations and how the early childhood educator will continue to be a crucial part of that learning environment.

There are many similarities between the responsibilities educators have in Early ON centers and Kindergarten programs. For example, both educators are required to plan programs for children and observe their interactions and assess their development. Each setting recognizes the importance of establishing an early learning environment that views the child as a holistic individual and understands families are diverse and programs must be adapted with that in mind. 

Speaking of families, educators in the kindergarten program are still required to communicate with families, however many centers focus more on parent involvement over family engagements (Woods, 2019). This is really the only difference found after comparing in educators’ responsibilities among two programs. EarlyON centers gear their programs a lot more to working alongside families, where the educator in a kindergarten room focuses a lot more on their duty to cooperate with the kindergarten teacher and establishing a partnership with them, as well as reporting to the principal of their school (Ontario, 2019).

One would think that becoming a registered early childhood educator means the same thing regardless of job titles. Unfortunately, there are many factors impacting the roles of educators depending on their setting. As mentioned, EarlyON centers are free programs offered to the community. Kindergarten programs are full-day programs featuring a teacher and an early learning educator (EL–K) forming a team with the purpose of teaching young children using the school board curriculum. 

Some factors that affect educators in the EarlyON setting include, absence of recognition, undervalued programming, and a shortage of professional opportunities (Holmes, 2016). Based on what has been described of the roles of these educators, the lack of support they receive both professionally and within their community is shocking. Despite these working conditions, early childhood educators in these programs remain dedicated in their quest to provide high-quality programs for children and families.

The main reason the educators at EarlyON centers go through these obstacles is that they are non-profit agencies. “Publicly funded programs in Canada haven’t increased their baseline funding for several years or increased the wages of educators in these programs in over a decade” (Holmes, 2016, p.4). Many people neglect to talk about this pressing issue with the wage gap simply because they are unaware of it and instead are under the impression that educators in kindergarten and in EarlyON programs receive the same wages. 

Meanwhile, ECEs in kindergarten did receive a wage increase with the intent to minimize the huge gap in pay between kindergarten teachers and early childhood educators. This did indeed lessen the gap between the EL-K team, it grossly increased the financial and professional gap between the said team and frontline educators who are just as dedicated and work just as hard.

The grass may seem much greener on the side of full-day kindergarten but make no mistake, educators within these programs face just as many challenges that impact their roles daily. To begin, it may feel like a small battle was won in an attempt to lower the wage gap  

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