The early years are a time of discovery when children develop the skills they need to succeed in school and life. Recognizing this, ministers of education are working collectively through CMEC and individually in their own provinces and territories to provide quality opportunities for early childhood learning and development, the first of Canada's four pillars of lifelong learning.

Across Canada, governments are working to transform systems of early learning and development to create a more seamless early-learning experience for children and their families and to ensure smooth transitions from early learning and care to elementary school so that the gains made in the former are sustained and enhanced in the latter.

At the pan-Canadian level, ministers put forward an ambitious goal for early childhood learning and development in Canada in their 2008 Learn Canada 2020 declaration, that “all children should have access to high-quality early childhood education that ensures they arrive at school ready to learn.” Since that time, developments in this sector have taken place at the provincial, territorial, and pan-Canadian levels.

Recognizing that Canada's early-childhood-learning-and-development systems have been developed by each jurisdiction to respond to the particular circumstances, geographical situation, and historical and cultural heritage of the populations they serve, ministers have committed to continue knowledge-sharing on early childhood learning and development through CMEC so that that all provinces and territories benefit from the learning and innovation taking place throughout the country.

Highlighting the importance of the early years, ministers held a special session on early childhood in February 2011 and established the CMEC Early Childhood Learning and Development Committee to support the ongoing sharing of experiences among provinces and territories.

In 2012, ministers released their joint statement on play-based learning to raise awareness about the importance of engaging children through purposeful play-based learning as a means of achieving quality outcomes for early learners. In 2014, CMEC released its Early Learning and Development Framework which sets out a pan-Canadian vision for early learning that can be adapted to the unique needs and circumstances of each province and territory. It is designed to serve as a resource to support the development of policies and initiatives by ministries and departments of education and their partners that enhance the quality and continuity of the learning experience in the early years and beyond.

Ministers, working through CMEC, have also increased their engagement on early learning as the voice of education for Canada at the international level: