The effects of preschool experience on some aspects of child development in Bahrain
Recent research evidence, primarily from the Western hemisphere, supports the belief that high quality preschool experience has long-lasting effects on the development of children's later lives (Ball, RSA Start Right Report, 1994; Bruner, 1980; Schweinhart, Barnes & Weikart, 1993; Sylva, 1993). The important questions posed for this investigation in Bahrain were: 1. Is attendance at preschool centres (educationally and care orientated) associated with higher scores on measures of child development when compared to a control group of children who remained at home? 2. Is attendance at educationally-orientated preschool associated with higher scores on developmental measures than attendance at care-orientated preschool? 3. Are educationally-orientated pre-schools providing 'a more favourable' environment when compared with care-orientated p re-schools? The method was a quasi-experimental design utilising pre and post measures over one academic school year period, 1992-1993 (approximately nine months). A total of eight preschool institutions were randomly (stratified sample) selected (four educationally-orientated centres and four care-orientated centres) from four catchment areas covering the entire island of Bahrain. Each area was represented by a sample of 35 children (matched on several background variables) from the two types of preschool orientations and the home group (N=140; 48 in educational group; 48 in care group; 44 in home group). A Family Background Questionnaire (FBQ) was applied on the total sample to measure differences between groups on several family characteristics, such as, parent's education, occupations, household structure, number of children in household, provisions for play and learning at home, parent childrearing attitudes and mother's expectations regarding the child's competence and behaviour. 111 Assessments were made of children's cognitive, social and emotional development: the Stanford-Binet: LIM Form (Terman & Merrill, 1960); the Arithmetic and Block Design Subtests from Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence: (Wechsler, 1963); the Draw-A-Person: (Harris, 1963); The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance for Young Children: (Harter, 1983) and The Preschool Behaviour Checklist: (Richman & McGuire, 1982). All instruments were translated into Arabic, back-translated (Brislin, Lonner, Thomdike, 1973) and pilot tested for cultural acceptability. For the main study (N=140), the 96 preschool attenders were tested soon after school entry (October, 1992) and then again at school year end in June, 1993, while the 44 children serving as the control group were tested in their homes. All testing was carried out in the children's home language. Additionally, two assessments procedures were used for studying the preschool environments: the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (Harms & Clifford, 1980); and the Target Child Observation Instrument (Sylva, Roy & Painter, 1980). The results indicated that attendance at preschool centres (care and educationally-orientated) was associated with higher performance on most aspects of development when compared with children who stayed at home. There were significant gains on measures of cognitive development (Stanford- Binet; WPPSI; Draw-A-Person); social competence measures, Perceived Competence; and behavioural/emotional stability for preschool attenders when compared to home children. Multiple regression analyses showed that children in centre-based programmes made significant improvement over the year interval between pre-and post testing: A further within-groups regression analysis revealed that no particular preschool within either group was accounting for the higher/lower scores. Children attending educationally-orientated pre-schools significantly outperformed children at care-orientated pre-schools and at home on all the measures of development and they made significant improvement over the tested time period (Stanford-Binet: p<.001; WPPSI Subtests, Arithmetic and Block Design: p<.001; Draw-A-Person: p<.001; Preschool Behaviour Checklist: p<.001; Harters Perceived Competence (Cognitive and Physical Competence) and Acceptance Scale (Peer and Maternal Acceptance): p<.00l. When comparing preschool environments (care and educational) it was found that the educationally-orientated settings offered a greater degree of attention to iv personal care, language/reasoning experiences and the opportunity for creative and social development when compared with the care orientated pre-schools (ECERS, p<.O1). Teachers at the educational centres were more inclined to support, question and have dialogue with the children when compared to teachers at the care centres. Children at care centres engaged more in adultdirected activities, spent less time in challenging tasks for shorter periods of time (concentration bouts) and had more dialogue with other children when compared with children at educationally-orientated preschools (Target Child Time Sampling). Implications of this research for preschool educators in Bahrain are discussed as well as varying definitions of 'quality.'