As B.C. begins introducing full-day kindergarten in schools across the province, some critics are questioning the worth of such a costly initiative.

The province has made a $424-million investment to fund a full day of play-based learning for four and five-year-olds in every school district by 2012.

Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid says that a full day of school at such a young age helps with the transition to first grade, and students who attend full-day kindergarten are more likely to go on to post-secondary education and get jobs.

"This is an investment that will pay off enormously -- monetarily, economically, but also just in the quality of life for these students," she said.

Jane Beach, an early education expert, agrees.

"Having these kinds of opportunities when they're really young will really set the stage for them to have critical thinking skills down the road," she told CTV News.

But not everyone is so keen on the idea. The Kids First Parents Association -- which campaigns against government-funded daycare -- says that it's not convinced by the claims in support of full-day kindergarten.

"They're making ludicrous claims," the group's president, Helen Ward, said.

"It was not an election promise or an election mandate, they haven't even polled parents, and it's based on junk science."

Kids First believes that rather than funding more school programs, parents should have financial support if they choose to keep their young children at home.

At Walton Elementary School in Coquitlam, half of Cameron Sadowski's full day of classes this year will be spent learning Mandarin. That's an opportunity that excites his parents, although they're unsure of what effect it will have on his future.

"It's hard to make a decision on that now, since it's such a new program and I've had no exposure to it," father Richard Sadowski told CTV News.

Half of the province's kindergarten-aged students will go to school for a full day beginning this year, and about 40,000 are expected to have the option of full-day classes by 2011.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Sarah Galashan