New study on education quality of universal day care programs

Map of Canada
Map of Canada

This article from the Toronto Sun talks about the government-run day care system in Quebec. (H/T Luis)


Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare system is failing to improve children’s educational outcomes, an economics professor from Montreal says.

In a new paper, Pierre Lefebvre of the Universite du Quebec a Montreal explains that when the system was created, Quebecers were told “it would promote children’s development so they would perform better in school later.”

“This never happened,” he says.

The researcher studied children under the age of five from Quebec and children of the same age from the rest of Canada and compared their progress at various points between 1994 and 2006. He found Quebec’s family policy did nothing to improve cognitive skills in children.

According to Lefebvre, it’s because the Quebec government program is doing a lousy job.

“There is a serious quality problem. I would go as far as to say that daycare quality is very low, both in terms of educators’ formation and in terms of the quality of interactions between educators and children.”

The program receives taxpayer money from all working people. So working husbands with stay-at-home wives have to pay for a day care system that they will never use.

Here’s a second article from the National Post about Sweden’s government-run universal day care system. (H/T Luis)


True, parental leave in Sweden is a generous 16 months. There are no babies in daycare. But when parental leave ends, practically the reverse is true: A full 92% of all children aged 18 months to five years are in daycare. Parents pay only a symbolic amount for this; tax subsidies for daycare are $20,000 per child, annually. Swedish taxes are among the highest in the world, and the tax system was designed to make both parents seek employment in the work force.

[…]Then there are the questions about the social toll Sweden’s childcare system is taking. Sweden has offered a comprehensive daycare system since 1975; since the early ‘90s, negative outcomes for children and adolescents are on the rise in areas of health and behaviour. While direct causation has been difficult to prove, many Swedish health-care professionals point to the lack of parent involvement beyond the first 16 months as a primary contributing factor. Psychosomatic disorders and mild psychological problems are escalating among Swedish youth at a faster rate than in any of 11 comparable European countries. Such disorders have tripled among girls over the last 25 years. Education outcomes in Swedish schools have fallen from the top position 30 years ago, to merely average amongst OECD nations today. Behaviour problems in Swedish classrooms are among the worst in Europe.

This isn’t surprising. After a generation of inexperience, Swedish parenting abilities are deteriorating. A study sponsored by the European Union showed many middle-class parents lack the ability to set limits and sense their children’s needs.

Recently, Swedish public service radio investigated the state of Swedish daycares. Parents, psychologists and daycare staff expressed deep concern. In spite of high funding levels, group size and the child-to-adult ratio continue to increase. An experienced pre-school teacher recalls that in 1980 the group size for small children was 10 kids with four adults. For older children, that ratio was five kids per adult. But after the Swedish financial crisis 20 years ago, this changed. Today younger children face ratios of up to 17 kids to three adults and older children face ratios of up to 10 to one. Staff on sick leave are not replaced. “We can’t give quality care today,” one teacher reported. Only one person interviewed contended that Swedish daycare is still top quality — the Swedish Deputy Minister of Education, Nyamko Sabuni.

Again, this program is taxpayer funded. Working husbands with stay-at-home wives will be paying for something that they don’t even use.

I think parents need to consider what happens in other countries to see how good these universal day care programs really are.

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