Mr. Speaker, I would like to share the Northwest Territories three year baseline results of the Early Development Instrument referred to as the EDI results. The EDI is a population-level tool that measures children’s ability to meet age appropriate developmental expectations at school entry.
The EDI measures five areas of a child’s development, including their physical health and well-being, their language and cognitive development, their communication skills and general knowledge, their social competence and the child’s emotional maturity.
Mr. Speaker, the EDI focuses on the outcomes for 5- year old kindergarten children that, in the long term, affect their lifelong learning, health and overall well-being. It lets us measure whether children are coming to school rested, fed and ready to learn. It tells us if they are able to follow directions, to get along with classmates and to tell a story about their day.
The EDI results are telling us that 38% of all 5-year old children in the NWT are vulnerable in at least one area of their development as compared to 25% in the rest of Canada. In small communities, as many as 50% of all 5-year olds are vulnerable in one area of their development.
We should be concerned about these statistics, Mr. Speaker, because long-term studies have shown that children who are vulnerable in only one area are more likely to struggle in later grades.
These same studies show that when kindergarten children are vulnerable in two or more areas of their development, their chances of struggling in school increase even more.
Mr. Speaker, right now 23% of all 5-year old children in the NWT are vulnerable in at least two areas of their development as compared to 12% in the rest of Canada. When we look at small communities separately, 37% of children are vulnerable in two areas of their development.
Over the past three years the EDI has shown that 8% of all 5- year old NWT children are challenged in three or more areas of their development. Unaddressed that could mean lifelong learning challenges for these children. So with all the other EDI stats, this is even worse in small communities, where 16% of all 5-year olds have been identified as having multiple challenges.
Mr. Speaker, this data demands that we act now. GNWT departments have started with theRight from the Start: Early Childhood Development Framework and Action Plan, but it cannot end there if we are to significantly impact the lives and futures of children in the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, we should not tolerate the status quo in terms of child development and to change the status quo means changing the way we do business. It means trying new things. In some cases, it means shaking up our current system. It means working together, all of us, rather than working separately.
Mr. Speaker, I truly believe that with the combined efforts of all Members of this Assembly we can collectively make a positive difference in the lives of our families, our children and the people we serve.