Queen’s University study examines Ontario full-day kindergarten

Ontario began to roll out full-day kindergarten in 2010. Since then more than one million children have enrolled. Some studies have found these students are better prepared for Grade 1 and outperform their half-day peers by the end of Grade 2. Other studies cast doubt on the long-term impact of the program.

Research Summary

  • Ontario’s full-day kindergarten had little effect on literacy, math, or self-regulation skills in kindergarten students, based on items taken from the Early Development Instrument.

What is the research about?

Research shows that children in full-day kindergarten spend more quality time with their teachers and have better academic outcomes. Full-day kindergarten also promotes self-regulation.

However, there are aspects of full-day kindergarten which may make it challenging for students to self-regulate and learn effectively. Large numbers of students in physically small classrooms can make learning difficult.

Ontario implemented full-day kindergarten in 2010. The program focuses on play-based learning and a team-teaching approach.

A group of researchers from Queen’s University looked at how effective Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program was on self-regulation, literacy, and numeracy outcomes.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers analyzed Early Development Instrument (EDI) data from 2012 for 32,027 senior kindergarten students across Ontario.

  • 6,453 children were in full-day kindergarten
  • 25,574 children were in half-day kindergarten

The researchers used EDI questions to create measures of:

  • self-regulation
  • literacy
  • numeracy

Since full-day kindergarten was not yet rolled out across the whole province, using 2012 EDI data allowed the researchers to compare children in full-day kindergarten with their half-day peers.

The goal was to see if full-day kindergarten in Ontario was associated with better self-regulation, literacy, and numeracy above and beyond the effects of:

  • Age and gender
  • Historical school achievement (based on 2009 EDI data)
  • School socioeconomic status

What did the researchers find?

Full-day kindergarten had negative, but small, effects on self-regulation and numeracy. There was no effect on literacy.

Children from low-income families had slightly worse literacy and numeracy outcomes. Being older, female, and from a higher-income family predicted higher outcomes.

What does this research mean?

The authors suggest there is a need to improve Ontario’s full-day kindergarten program. One option they propose is limiting class sizes for more quality time between teachers and students.