Enough carping on the detail from me - so what would I do? How would I approach this?
First of all I would like to offer a fundamental diagnosis and then offer an alternative and then a new approach based on this.
The Diagnosis - Wrong Lens Leading to Wrong Assumptions - What we need is a new institution like School that we can control directly.
The report and so the plan makes a fundamental diagnostic error - The core assumption is that all the myriad and complex issues that arise around human development in this critical period of 0-6 can be solved by inserting a controllable institution into the slot. If we in effect pushed the school system back into the Early Years we would get a much better result.
For this is what the report and the plan implies. The report also claims to have a great deal of literature support for this assumption. There is no mention in the report or the plan of what is the key problem. There is no mention of what success will look like or why. There is no mention of even "better" will be. There is just the assumption that if we build this - it will be good.
The plan as it is now unfolding makes the new centres the focus of the work. All other aspects of the system - principally parents as the key influencer of the child's development - pre natal - family support - the most important group of children/ the vulnerable - are all sidelined.
The Money in this plan is used as a lever to shift effort, attention and resources to the new institution. The money flows to the institution and only to those inside them. If what you do or want does not fit this one design, you are out.
This of course is why all institutions today are in such trouble - they trend off their stated mission to their core real mission which is to serve the institution itself rather that those it claims to serve. This is why institutions jealously attack any funding threat even if the alternative is better for the mission.
Why this wrong assumption? Because the context for the report was the School and Daycare. Hammers look for nails.
The Appropriate Lens - This is all a System - Systems have to be "grown" not built
The most important two things missed by the report and so by the plan are these:
At the moment on PEI there is a small system that is touching all the parts of the challenge.
THIS is the current system of services on PEI. it is loosely connected. It NEVER meets as a system. The new plan ignores all of this but Daycare. The new plan allocates all the new money to this.
The money goes to the institution and not to the child. This is a Darwinian process that will pull resources from the system and most importantly from the the pivot - parents and the vulnerable.
The key is to acknowledge that the parents and the vulnerable are the focus.
So what to do?
The Child Alliance is pleased to see the emphasis that the government of PEI has put on helping the children of PEI have a better start in life.
There is no doubt that that putting significant resources into a formal system to help our younger children learn is vitally important to their future and to the future of our province.
The plan, as tabled, is of course more of an intention than a plan. The details of what to do and how to do this have to be worked out by all concerned. The Government has asked for help and support in making this intention real.
So it is response to this request that we put forward this context and these questions.
Context: We can all agree with the overall intent to offer Quality, Choice and Access to a better learning environment to the 6,300 children on PEI that are from 0-4. Currently 2,000 of these are enrolled in some kind of daycare.
It is important to note that more than 4,000 children have little or no support. Our questions stem from the challenge of this group.
What is the Goal - What does Success Look Like? How do we measure Progress? The plan currently has no measurable goal for what success might be or what all this investment is for other than to have a better system.
What does “better” mean and what is the “problem” that we seek to address?
We respectfully urge all concerned to establish such a goal. Here is a suggestion.
In BC, the Government has been clear. The problem there is that 30% of the children enter the school system unable to learn and unable to behave. This group is largely lost from the start. By 6 it is an exceptionally hard task to change a child’s wiring. Also, the size of this group at 30% is so large that it disrupts the enter system putting all the other children at risk. It is this large group that comes from the most vulnerable part of society that is the focus. The core of the problem of this vulnerability is found in the family. For Parents, not any institution, are the main driver of their children’s development. This is not simply a problem of poverty. Middle class children make up most of those in this group. The most critical years are from conception to aged 2.
The BC goal is to reduce this 30% to 15% and then to 10%. Such a goal enables all the organizations and all the resources to find ways of collaborating in a common cause that can be measured.
On PEI we have exactly the same numbers. About 30% of children arrive in school not being able to learn and cope. They have the same disruptive impact on the other 70% of children who arrive being able to learn and behave. This is the kernel of both our problem and our opportunity.
The child’s trajectory for development is set by the age of 2. So the battleground then is the family. The key issue is how well or not parents can cope and parent.
We don’t see any of this in the plan so far. We are concerned that at the core of the plan is a focus on a worthy cause, that of building an excellent daycare system. We are concerned that in the excitement and in the potential achievement of succeeding the noble goal of having a much better Daycare system that we miss the strategic lever of the vulnerable.
Key questions for us fall out of this context:
Our Offer - The Child Alliance does more than talk. We have been instrumental in attracting resources from off PEI to help Island families and children.The government has made the financial commitment. The government has asked for ideas and support.
We offer to work across the Island to bring forward the best goals for the work and to design a measurement system that works from outside the system to keep the system accountable.
No service is perfect, nor do we as parents expect it to be. We do however, have a right to be heard if we have concerns about the current early childhood education system. Each of us are our children’s advocate and deserve respect.
This survey is a tool that will allow you to give your important feedback which will in turn raise the level of standards of early childhood education on PEI. This will also allow all issues regarding early childhood education to be placed on the table for discussion.
Please tell us your story so we can paint the true image of early childhood education on PEI. Together we can build a framework of concerns and offer recommendations so the PEI Government can give children the best start possible on Prince Edward Island.
For those who are not computer savvy, a PDF copy can be found on our website as well. You can then feel free to mail or fax your completed form to the contacts listed on the form. Please feel free to print it off and distribute it to anyone concerned on PEI.
We will compile all the feedback from this survey and present it to Government. We ask that you submit your feedback to us by Monday, March 31, 2008.
As the issues hot up around the Child Care act and now kindergarten, so has the traffic on our supporting blog. We are at 153 visits today so far after the normal drop over the weekend.
Maybe 153 visits in one day does not sound a lot to you in the big cities but the government process had had 30 in all last week.
There are 140,000 people on PEI vs say 4 million in the GTA so if this was an issue in Toronto our 153 visits today would be about 4,200.
For every one of the 164 members on Facebook there are families and friends - how many voters? A lot I think.
It's a hornets nest and its all unnecessary. If the government and the staff had a real framework for the opportunity of the Early Years, we could make such a difference.
What if the government also used these kinds of tools as well?
Trust is not about saying trust me - it is about acting in a trustworthy manner.
If you have not been acting in a trustworthy manner - your only hope is to offer full disclosure.
Many went to a meeting last night hoping to hear the full truth of what is behind the effort by the department to change the Child Care Facilities Act. We were hoping to be given the facts and the reasons behind the changes. We got platitudes instead.
So today our co chairs have written to the responsible official and asked her to provide us by March 7th (The deadline is theirs) with the information that any professional bureaucrat would have used at the outset to determine a change to an important act.
All leaders draw on Trust and Hope as their power. This is the miracle of the Obama campaign. Trust and Hope is what Roosevelt offered in dark times. It was the heart of Churchill's message in 1941. Often, this is all a leader can offer - sometimes we can only trust and hope in ourselves and in destiny.
When a leader loses that, like Lyndon Johnson or Nixon, they lose everything. No matter how able they are, no matter how clearly they see the challenges, they do not have the support to act.
So the real task of a political leader is act in such a way that Trust and Hope are not lost but sustained and grown.
You don't have to be right all the time. You don't have to be clever. You can have secrets but you have to be straight.
What you don't want is to have this trust undermined inadvertently. This is what is happening on PEI right now.
What would it be like if a inner group of your neighbors had discretion about how the building code was applied if you wanted to add a room to your house? Weird right? Today if you meet code - you can proceed. If you plan to meet code, you will be fine. If your neigbours had control - the process might never end. What if you had annoyed one of them? Could you predict anything unless of course you were on the inside of such a group? Would the regulations mean anything?
Well that is what it is like on PEI to get your self licensed or to get a day care licensed. On PEI we have such an inner group!
The regulations don't matter as much as getting the support of an inner group who have a vested interest in the status quo.
There is no good reason to have such a group. No other province has one and it should go as part of the changes to the act.
A major part of many people's concern about the proposed changes to the act is that if the new wording "May" is used in stead of "Shall" that there will be discretion to deny licenses to people who HAVE MET ALL THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE ACT. Officials have been clear. They intend to use this word change to limit the number of new places.
But it gets worse. For the decision makers who will have this discretion are not A bureaucrat working with the delegated authority of the minister but a "Board". PEI is the only province to have this layer between the people and the minister.
It is this board that will get the discretion and it is this board that already uses its discretion say in staffing. So if you are a specialist in early childhood care but come from another province or another country, your credentials are scrutinized by this body already with full discretion. This discretion in staffing and in who gets paid the government subsidy is already being used.
Where do the members come from?
The board is appointed by the minister. It has one parent - the rest are officials or leading members of the operating community. Of course recommendations as to who sits are made by the key officials to the minister. In effect the existing "in group" run this board.
No other province has such a body. In all others the minister is accountable and the issue at all times is judicial - DO YOU HAVE THE QUALIFICATIONS & DOES YOUR PLACE MEET THE REGULATIONS.
This provides a level playing field. The core of such a system is the law. You meet the requirements of the law or you don't. What is the point of having any regulations if meeting them is not the real test. The real test on PEI is whether the inner group like you or not.
The PEI system is confusing, open to abuse and creates a conflict of interest. The board has to go.