CARE reseachers presentrf at the biennial meeting of the International Society of Studies on Behavioral Development (ISSBD), on a symposium entitled “A cross-cultural perspective on ECEC: Parents’ and teachers’ values, beliefs and practices in different Western cultures” (chaired by Martine Broekhuizen).
More than 60 participants were attending the symposoum.
The meeting took place in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 10-14, 2016.
Parents’ values and beliefs about early childhood education and care (ECEC) are acknowledged as important contributors to ECEC policy development. Nowadays, there is abundant evidence that these values and beliefs are related to parent’s cultural background. This paper considers specifically the future-oriented developmental and educational goals that parents consider to be most important to stimulate in ECEC.
First, we examined whether we could define developmental domains that could be validly compared across European countries. Second, we investigated differences in parents’ ratings of these domains between the nine participating countries.
Participants in this questionnaire study (N = 3144, Mage = 35 years, 90% female) were parents from nine European countries (England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Portugal). The study is part of the larger European CARE project. Data were collected in the spring of 2015. To adjust for selection bias, we weighted the data for parents’ educational level.
Questions were composed and extensively discussed by researchers from the nine countries. Parents rated the importance of these questions for two age groups: Children under three years and children between three and six years. Multi-group confirmatory factor analyses showed that the questions could be divided into seven developmental domains that could be validly compared across countries (i.e., full measurement equivalence).
These domains are interpersonal skills, interest in diversity, pre-academic skills, learning related skills, physical-motor skills, emotion regulation, and personal learning attitudes. Finding full measurement equivalence illustrates that we have a common understanding about several specific developmental and educational goals across Europe.
Parents rated the specific developmental and educational domains as more important for older children compared to younger children. This was most strongly the case for stimulating children’s pre-academic skills, followed by learning-related skills. In addition, whereas parents in Greece, Norway, and Portugal score relatively high across both age ranges on children’s pre-academic skills, parents in Germany and Finland score relatively low. These between country differences are largest for children younger than three years.
The patterns of the domains across countries are rather similar. ‘Soft’ interpersonal, emotional and personal skills are deemed more important than ‘hard’ pre-academic skills for both age ranges in all countries. The difference between ´soft´ and ´hard´ skills was less strong for children between age three and six, although it was still apparent in some countries (e.g., Finland and Germany). In the presentation we will also explore relations with SES and non-western cultural background.
Teachers’ beliefs are reflected in the way they shape their everyday classroom practices in early childhood education and care (ECEC) provisions. More specifically this pertains to the choices they make in the ECEC curriculum and the quality of their interactions with children. ECEC quality is usually evaluated with observational measures. For instance, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is focused at evaluating classroom process quality. Process quality encompasses children’s day-to-day experiences while interacting with teachers, peers and, materials and is dependent on the cultural values in a particular setting. The CARE case study is aimed at increasing our understanding of process quality and curriculum in ECEC provisions in seven European countries. The current study reports on the comparison of process quality and curriculum in ECEC provisions in the Netherlands and Poland.
Classroom quality was measured in 28 centers in the Netherlands and 28 centers in Poland using the CLASS Toddler version. The CLASS is based on two overarching domains: Emotional and Behavioral Support and Engaged Support for Learning. Teacher reports were used to evaluate the curriculum, focusing on a broad range of activities typical in ECEC, including academic activities as well as pretend play and activities aimed at enhancing children’s self-regulation. In addition, qualitative data were collected through teacher interviews focusing on the values they hold concerning their classroom practices (2 teachers from each country).
The findings from the Netherlands showed that Emotional and Behavioral Support is in the mid-to-high range, whereas Engaged Support for Learning was in the low-to-mid range. The results from the Netherlands furthermore revealed that Negative Climate is scarce in ECEC classrooms. In addition, the Regard for Child Perspectives dimension is strongly related to the type of activity observed in the centers.
Specifically, in free play Dutch teachers showed the highest regard for children’s perspectives while in other activities this was less evident. These findings might point to cultural differences related to the Dutch ECEC curriculum. Furthermore, teachers in Dutch ECEC provisions reported a balance in the provision of play and academically focused activities in their classroom. Finally, the teacher interviews revealed that teachers emphasized child-centered values.
The two Dutch teachers stressed the importance of acknowledging every individual child while trying to support their broad development. The data from Poland are currently being analyzed and will be presented in the paper allowing for a cross-cultural comparison of observed quality and classroom practices.