Improvements & Struggles for Ontario Kindergartners: 9 Years of EDI Data

October 11, 2017

Over the last decade there has been a growing number of Ontario kindergartners who are vulnerable in at least one domain of their development (physical health and well-being; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive development; communication skills and general knowledge). However, children are improving in two key domains of their development.

In 2004, Ontario began the first province-wide collection of the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a questionnaire developed by Dr. Dan Offord and Dr. Magdalena Janus at the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University. The questionnaire measures children’s ability to meet age-appropriate developmental expectations in the following domains: physical health and well-being; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive development; communication skills and general knowledge.

Fast forward to 2015; EDI data have been collected on more than 510,000 Ontario kindergartners, painting a picture of how children in the province are developing.

More Ontario kindergartners are vulnerable in their development in 2015 than a decade ago, meaning more children score below a standard score in any domain of their development.

Almost 30% of children in Ontario were vulnerable on one or more EDI domains in 2015, up from 28% in 2004-2006. However, this does not tell the whole story. Children are improving in certain areas of their development (vulnerability is going down), but struggling in others (vulnerability is going up).

early childhood development

  • Vulnerability is trending lower in two domains
    • Language & Cognitive Development (-2.9%)
    • Communication Skills & General Knowledge (-1.9%)
  • Vulnerability is trending higher in three domains
    • Physical Health and Well-Being (+3.2%)
    • Social Competence (+1.4%)
    • Emotional Maturity (+2.0%)

You can read the full EDI in Ontario Over Time report online.

Ontario’s long-term trend is similar to what we see in British Columbia, yet differs in many ways from the results in Manitoba. In Manitoba, vulnerability in the Emotional Maturity domain is trending lower and has remained largely stable in the Physical Health and Well-Being domain. In Ontario, these domains have the largest increases in vulnerability across all domains.

Increasing vulnerability is a concern as children vulnerable in kindergarten are more likely to have later difficulties academically, emotionally, and in their relationships with peers.

Community-based solutions and government policy needed

Examining how children are doing over time is important for driving change. Focusing on strengthening the areas in which children are vulnerable allows schools, communities, and governments to make decisions on how to best support early development. Investigating how children’s developmental health is changing over time can also help evaluate what is currently in place to support children and their families.

There is no single cause of vulnerability and no simple solution. Children’s healthy development starts at home, but in the early years of a child’s life child care, public health, schools and more all play a role. That’s why improving outcomes for children and their families is a matter of both community-based solutions and government policy.

The next EDI data collection is in 2018.

To learn more about EDI, visit the sites, or watch this short video.

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