In Preschool: As Essential As Food, An Effectiveness Review of the Saskatoon Preschool Foundation Tuition Subsidy Program, A.J. (Jim) Propp explores the value of both preschool as preparation for children's entry into the school system and a Saskatoon Preschool Foundation (SPF) program that assists families with preschool tuition. Through conversations with twelve parents/guardians, Propp assesses the experiences and opinions of those who have benefited from the tuition subsidy. On the whole, the participants in Propp's study were quite pleased with the program and regarded the preschool experience as vital to their child's education, urging that government should provide funding so that more children can receive the intellectual, social, emotional and behavioral benefits of preschool.
An increasing body of neuroscientific research emphasizes that the first six years of a child's life sets the foundation for lifelong competencies and skills that affect learning, behaviour, and health. Brain development is especially critical during these early years, influencing a person's ability to learn. Accordingly, these researchers argue for increased attention to positive stimulation for children, such as that which preschool programs provide. Similarly, for the past decade the Saskatoon Preschool Foundation has advocated for early childhood learning, the importance of the early years to children's development, and addressing the needs of families of preschool children. Families who are experiencing financial difficulty can apply for a subsidy that pays either the full or partial cost of preschool tuition for one or more children.
Throughout the discussions, participants were unanimous in their belief that the SPF tuition subsidy provided an "ducational advantage" to their children's early learning. What constituted an educational advantage included making new friends and social, emotional, interpersonal, communication, and literacy skills development. Participants further argued that preschool provides children with a solid base that allows them to maximize the school experience in terms of its structures, routines, and expectations. Parents/guardians also believed that enrollment in preschool increased their own interest and involvement in their children's education/school, and in some cases their community.
In terms of their relationship with the SPF, participants' comments were mostly quite positive. Participants felt that the SPF always held their child's best interests at the fore and that they, the parents, feel like partners with the SPF rather than clients. The subsidy itself was regarded as a means of leveling the playing field between those who can afford preschool and those who cannot. Despite the financial assistance that SPF provides, however, participants were adamant that they were not abdicating any responsibility for their children's education.
Concluding the report, Propp suggests that: (1) the tuition subsidy program continue unchanged; (2) a public awareness campaign of the tuition subsidy program be conducted to expand its profile in the community; and (3) influential community members be contacted about the importance of preschool and improving funding for early learning.