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NEWS RELEASE · 7th September 2010
Ministry of Education
Full-day kindergarten launched today for 20,000 new students, including nearly 90 young learners at Walton Elementary in Coquitlam, many of whom will be part of one of the first bilingual Mandarin programs in B.C., announced Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid.

"This is a landmark day for education in British Columbia as we start full-day kindergarten, a program that will help prepare these children for success in school and life," said MacDiarmid. "This program will assist working families while helping their children grow linguistically, emotionally and socially."

A unique bilingual Mandarin program has been developed by the school district after extensive consultation with area parents. Children in the program learn half-time in English and half time in Mandarin. Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world and the second-most prevalent language in business.

Provincial funding helped furnish and equip classrooms with a variety of wooden play elements created by Natural Pod, a Cobble Hill company. They have used B.C. wood to create equipment which encourages the natural creativity and imagination of children at play.

Jane Beach, international early learning consultant and former director of child care for the Province of British Columbia said, "It is amazing to see the ripple effect that early childhood education and related opportunities create throughout a child's life. In fact, all of our children need the skills they develop from playing, working and creating together - in a hands-on learning environment - in order to be successful in the 21st century."

The Province is committing $280 million over three years to implement full-day kindergarten for all five-year-olds in B.C. As well, $144.5 million is committed to preparing new classroom space for these students.

"This significant investment in early learning for Coquitlam will lead to higher achievement for our children in the future," said Coquitlam- Burke Mountain MLA Douglas Horne. "Full day kindergarten will provide young learners with the confidence needed to= be successful in school."

"This program builds on the strength of our other early learning programs like StrongStart BC in helping ensure each child entering school has a chance to achieve their full potential," said Coquitlam board of education chair Melissa Hyndes. "The benefits of a full-day kindergarten program include improved academic performance in later years and improved graduation rates for our students."

Universal access to full-day kindergarten is being phased in over two years. Funding has been made available for more than 50 per cent of kindergarten students this school year and all children in 2011. In the past only ESL students, Aboriginal students, and students with low- incidence special needs were funded for full day kindergarten.

Since 2001, the Province has invested nearly $1.4 billion in literacy and literacy-related initiatives, such as StrongStart BC early learning programs, $17 million to operate school kindergarten readiness program Ready, Set, Learn, and $2.7 million for the LEAP BC resources that encourage literacy, physical activity and healthy eating in preschool- aged children.