University of Saskatchewan

September 16, 2014   

U of S guest lecturer argues early investment in children yields huge economic boost

Paul Kershaw: Invest in early childhood development or pay a high price.
November 10, 2010

Governments need to invest in "smart family policy" to support early childhood development or pay an enormous economic price, argues political scientist Paul Kershaw who will be speaking November 15 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon.

Kershaw is known as one of the strongest voices for early childhood development in Canada. He is in Saskatoon at the invitation of the Saskatchewan Knowledge to Action Network for Early Childhood Development (kidSKAN) based at the University of Saskatchewan. kidSKAN researchers will also be presenting some of their latest findings.

Kershaw says our country’s performance is abysmal when comes to policies that support families.

“Canada consistently places near or at the bottom of UNICEF and other international rankings of early learning, child care, work-life balance and family poverty policies. But most Canadians don't know this fact,” he says.

“We don't invest much to support families to access the time, resources and community services they need to fulfill their care giving and earning responsibilities.”

Canada pays the price in lower graduation rates, poorer academic achievement, higher rates of crime and compromised economic growth. Kershaw and colleagues at the University of British Columbia estimate the economic value of this loss far exceeds the provincial debt load.

Using Early Development Instrument (EDI) data, Kershaw has been able to document that nearly 30 per cent of our children are considered “vulnerable” in Saskatchewan and many other provinces by the time they reach kindergarten. This results in enormous costs to society.

“By vulnerable, I don't mean that kindergarten kids aren’t the next Mozart or Einstein. Rather, vulnerable children struggle with one or more age appropriate tasks, such as holding a pencil, climbing stairs, following instructions from teachers, getting along on the playground and knowing 10 letters.”

Kershaw and his colleagues have developed a smart family policy framework to meet these challenges, which is aimed at helping children, supporting families and growing the economy.

“The early years have such a dramatic impact on the rest of people’s lives,” says U of S population health researcher Nazeem Muhajarine. “As a society, we can either pay now, by working to reduce children’s vulnerability, or pay much more later, trying to deal with its effects.”

Muhajarine and his team of researchers and community partners launched kidSKAN ( to give people an opportunity to collaborate on issues in early childhood development. They have been working with Kershaw and his colleagues to measure the level of “smart family policy” in the Western provinces.

Kershaw will speak at Prairieland Park, Hall 1, on Monday, November 15. The event runs from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Dinner is available at 6:00 p.m. for a suggested $20 donation to kidSKAN. Register via e-mail at

Note: Publication-quality photos of Kershaw are available at:


For more information contact: Fleur Macqueen Smith
Knowledge Transfer Manager
Healthy Children research team
Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-2957

Michael Robin
U of S Research Communications

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