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Evaluation report

1998 Jamaica: Report on Study of the Transition from Pre-School to Primary



Author: Bailey, B.; Brown, M. B.; University of the West Indies

Executive summary

Background

In December 1995, an Evaluation Report on the "state of the art" in early childhood education in Jamaica was completed as the first component of the Project for the Evaluation and Revitalisation of Early Childhood Education in Jamaica. The evaluation study explored and reported on issues related to access to early childhood education, system management, the learning environment and instructional approaches. One of the recommendations coming out of the 1995 evaluation study of early childhood education in Jamaica concerned the need to increase the linkages between the pre-primary and primary levels. This transition study was carried out to determine factors operating at the point at which pre-school students make the transition to the next level of education.

Purpose / Objective

The overall aim of the study was to identify critical issues and problems in relation to the transition of students from pre-school to Grade 1. The specific objectives of the study were to:

- compare the expectations of pre-school teachers with that of primary level teachers in respect of: what students should know, what students should be able to do, what social skills students should have at the end of their pre-school experience
- determine parental expectations in relation to both levels of schooling
- determine the extent to which resources to support teaching are evident at both levels
- assess the extent to which teachers at both levels are using approaches appropriate to that level of education
- determine the extent to which the curriculum used at the Grade 1 level articulates with that used at the pre-school level

Methodology

The study was designed to trace and study students first of all in their pre-school classrooms, and then early in the next state of their education at the primary level. A subset of 54 of the 169 basic/infant/preparatory schools used in a 1995 Evaluation Study of Early Childhood Education (Scott-McDonald) was selected for the Transition Study. Data were collected from the teachers of exit classes in 49 of the 54 pre-schools, and from 89 teachers of the primary level Grade I classes. A total of 351 students were identified in the pre-school exit classes and were traced to the time when they made the transition to Grade I at the primary level. A total of 257 parents/guardians were also interviewed.

The curricula used in the final pre-school year and in Grade I were analysed to assess the extent to which they were complementary. An inventory of learning materials in the Grade I classrooms was taken and compared with existing data for the pre-schools as reported in the Scott-McDonald study. The adequacy of space and facilities in the two school types, and the social climate of the classrooms in terms of interpersonal relationships and interactions were also addressed.

Key Findings and Conclusions

By and large, parents, pre-school and primary teachers held common opinions on what students should know, be able to do, and the social skills they should display at the end of their pre-school experience. Grade I teachers indicated that they had found evidence of inadequate visual/motor co-ordination and lack of appropriate communication and social skills in some incoming students and regarded these as gaps or deficiencies in their readiness for primary education.

A satisfactory level of correlation was found between the curricula for the final pre-primary year and that for Grade I. Responses from Grade I primary teachers suggested, however, that they placed greater emphasis on the symbolic mode and abstract reasoning than on concrete operations and manipulations. Incoming students seem to be expected, therefore, to make a radical shift from concrete means of operation to more abstract means.

The inventories of learning materials taken at both pre-school and primary levels showed that, for the most part, there was a scarcity of material to create child-centered learning environments. Physical condition in the pre-primary classrooms was found to be, on average, more conducive to satisfactory teaching/learning outcomes than those in Grade I classrooms.

Written tests and exercises ranked as the second and third most common assessment procedures used by pre-primary and primary teachers, respectively, suggesting an emphasis on the measurement of academic outcomes rather than skills, which are best assessed through the use of activities and observational techniques. Although observation of teaching practices indicated that a higher proportion of pre-primary teachers demonstrated desirable teaching strategies than did primary teachers, at both levels there were insufficient activities to stimulate students' self-expression and creativity. Nevertheless, evidence of good student-student and student-teacher relations was found.

The main reasons for the relatively low ratings on daily routines given to primary teachers were lack of small group activities, limited opportunities for children to represent their understanding of what they learnt, and insufficient teaching/learning materials - apart from the chalkboard. Data derived from the daily routines followed in Grade I classrooms indicate little evidence of a child-centred environment. Similar comments were made in the previously referenced Scott-McDonald study of pre-school learning environments.

Readiness assessment tests administered to the students in the sample showed that female students performed significantly better than males on three of the four sub-tests: visual/motor co-ordination, visual perception, and number and letter knowledge. Of the 170 male students, 41 (24%) had "No Mastery" of the visual perception tests. It is also noteworthy that a sizeable number of the 351 students was rated as having only "Almost Mastery" (29%) or "No Mastery" (16%) on those same tests. Arising from the findings of this study, the recommendations that follow have been made.

Recommendations

Trained teachers in the sample of pre-schools were, for the most part, not trained for this level. In-service training for Early Childhood teaching should, therefore, be mandatory for teachers trained for other levels of the educational system. The Ministry of Education & Culture should ensure that the in-service training programme for pre-primary teachers is articulated with the pre-service teacher-training programme and that all such teachers become qualified in order to remain on the staff of these schools.

Teachers should place a greater focus on the skills, identified in the Curriculum Guide, which children should master in readiness for the Primary Level Readiness Programme. Based on the Readiness Test results, pre-school teachers should give greater attention to developing skills related to visual perception, auditory perception and number-letter knowledge in preparation for students' entry to Grade 1.

Teachers should be trained to use assessment procedures that focus on age-appropriate skill acquisition rather than acquisition on facts. This should be, therefore, an essential element of the in-service training programme. All children entering Grade I should be routinely tested for visual and/or hearing impairments.

Sex differences in favour of girls are evident in all aspects of the Readiness Test. Further research should be conducted to identify factors that determine the differences at such an early stage of students' development.

Classrooms at both levels need to be provided with adequate amounts of learning materials and resources that allow for a greater level of self-directed student learning and less reliance on the traditional chalk-and-talk approach. The ECE and Grade I curricula are well-articulated and supervisors need to ensure, therefore, that these curricula are implemented as intended. Community members and parents could make a significant contribution in this respect.

More attention needs to be given to the way pre-primary and Grade 1 classrooms are structured for learning. The Ministry of Education and Culture should ensure that the space allocated for Grade 1 students complies with the same regulatiosn as for pre-school children. Furntiure should be light, flexible and moveable to allow for a more child-centered organisaton as in pre-school.



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Report information

Date:
1998

Region:
TACRO

Country:
Jamaica

Type:
Study

Theme:
Education - Other

Partners:
The Dudley Grant Memorial Trust, Bernard Van Leer

PIDB:

Follow Up:

Language:
English

Sequence Number:
1998/801

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