There are both strong similarities and strong differences among jurisdictions in policies towards Early Childhood Education and Care. Financial and regulatory policies explain much; this section tries to describe and explain variations in policy regimes and policy designs. We have a special interest in Canadian policy towards ECEC, and ECEC policies in other countries provide a laboratory of policy designs from which we can learn.
Most young Canadian children use non-parental care arrangements every week. The CanadianNational Child Care Survey of 1988 found that 74% of all children in Canada who are between
18 months old and 6 years of age are in regular non-parental care arrangements This statistic should give all of us considerable pause — the large majority of young children in Canada already use non-parental care. Given this reality, the endless discussion about whether nonparental care is optimal is beside the point. The key issues for policy makers to ask and answer are “what kind of care could and should our children receive?” and, especially, “what can and should governments in Canada do to encourage the use of good quality child care?”
Early Childhood Education services have become nearly universal for older preschool children in many countries over the last twenty years. Most European countries now regard early childhood education and care as an essential part of preparation of children for public school, an important component of the supports to families with employed parents, and as a venue for identifying children and families who will need special services.