New preschool program: What's in store for your toddler?

New preschool program: What's in store for your toddler?
A new preschool education program is being rolled out across Quebec. Find out what to expect.

August 2, 2021 | Children entering kindergarten this year will follow a new program adopted by the Quebec government. Here’s a quick overview of whatʼs in store for your little one.

The new Preschool Cycle Program is intended for children who attend kindergarten for 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds. It was designed to ensure consistency and continuity between these two tracks. The program focuses on the childʼs global development and the implementation of preventive measures to promote learning.

What’s staying the same

As has always been the case at the kindergarten level, daily activities revolve around play. Your child will therefore spend a lot of time playing, as it’s the best way for them to learn and develop.

Through games, they’ll develop skills in five areas of development (physical and motor development, emotional development, social development, language development, and cognitive development). For instance, play can involve playground equipment, building blocks, modelling clay, figurines, or costumes.

A great deal of time is also dedicated to free play in kindergarten. In other words, your child will have two 45–60 minute periods each day to play freely with their friends and choose their own games without imposition from the teacher.

Homework and lesson review are not mandatory in kindergarten. Any that are assigned will require very little time and prepare your child for in-class learning. Your child’s progress will be evaluated in three report cards.

What’s new: Learning the alphabet

The previous education program did not have specific guidelines about learning the alphabet by the end of preschool. Under the new Preschool Cycle Program, children are expected to know the names and sounds of most of the letters of the alphabet (upper and lower case) by the end of preschool.

Kindergarten teachers have always used games, workshops, and activities to familiarize children with the alphabet, but they may adopt new strategies now that expectations have changed.

Preventive action

Another new feature of the Preschool Cycle Program is the implementation of universal and targeted prevention activities. The goal of these activities is to ensure that all students develop the skills and behaviours needed to transition to Grade 1.

For example, teachers may organize regular classroom workshops to help their students improve in an area that’s key to school success, such as self-regulation or learning the letters of the alphabet. Occasionally, these universal prevention activities may be led by other school staff in the targeted field (e.g., special education, remedial education, psychoeducation).

Teachers may also offer additional targeted activities for students experiencing more difficulty. For instance, a child may have trouble using specific vocabulary or making themselves understood. In this case, the teacher may encourage them to read books or use specific words on a daily basis to improve their vocabulary. If difficulties persist, the teacher may request that a specialist, such as a speech-language pathologist, help the child develop their language skills.

It should be noted that kindergarten teachers have always observed students closely to support them in their learning and help them when they encounter difficulties. What’s new is that prevention activities are now part of the program.

 

A controversial program

Despite being developed in collaboration with partners in the education and university communities, the new Preschool Cycle Program is not unanimously supported. As soon as it was adopted, many people voiced criticism (notably in open letters). Early childhood and preschool experts, among others, complained that the focus on alphabet knowledge and prevention fails to account for the widely varying interests and learning speeds of children aged 4 to 6. Some are concerned that the new program puts too much emphasis on performance and is too quick to label disruptive children as “problem students.” That said, the new program has also received the support of many groups and experts. To learn more, check out this article (link in French) by the Observatoire des tout-petits.

 

To view the new Preschool Cycle Program: Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur du Québec (MEES)

 

The Naître et grandir team

Naître et grandir

 

Photos: Nicolas St-Germain

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