Hey everyone! We hope you’re all enjoying the last few weeks of summer! With school right around the corner, we thought this would be a great week to discuss the importance of early childhood education. One of our very own website designers, Maïa Vitoratos, wrote her senior undergrad thesis, “Health Disparities within Indigenous Populations in Canada” on the inequalities in healthcare that Indigenous Peoples face. She describes different steps, plans, and initiatives that we could implement in so-called Canada to make sure that these inequalities are addressed, and that Indigenous Peoples receive the quality and culturally appropriate access to care that is their human right. What may come as a surprise to some is that early childhood education is one of the many ways to benefit Indigenous Peoples’ health and wellness, in the long term.
The positive impact of early childhood education is seen clearly through the Closing the Gap policy in Australia, which Maïa details in her paper. This policy is a government strategy that was introduced in 2008. Its mission, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2022, is to close the health and life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. There are five main goals to the Closing the Gap initiative. The five goals are:
Closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous Peoples and settlers
Lowering the mortality rates for Indigenous children under five-years-old
Making sure that the majority of Indigenous four-year-olds have easy access to early childhood education
Closing the gap in reading, writing, and numeracy achievements for Indigenous children by 2025
Increasing Indigenous high school (year 12 or the equivalent) graduates by 2025
These main goals of the policy try to tackle the “social detriments of health,” which are all of the non-medical parts of our lives that affect our health and well-being. As seen from this list, education is a large “social detriment,” or a huge factor that plays a part in our health. So, if Indigenous youth receive greater access to education, especially education that is early on in their childhood and culturally relevant, it can greatly improve Indigenous Peoples’ overall health.
For this reason, we believe the Canadian government should consider creating a policy like that of Australia. Ensuring that Indigenous youth gain more access to education from a young age should be considered a priority. Developing early childhood education programs is one important way that we can do this. This type of policy requires investing in Indigenous communities and providing proper funding to make sure that every student receives the stellar education that they deserve.
Authors: Misha, ITMP Blog Coordinator and Maïa, ITMP Web Designer
Image Credits: Simon Brascoupé via Globe and Mail