A study of pre-school education in the Republic of Ireland with particular reference to those pre-schools which are listed by the Irish Pre-School Playgroups Association in Cork city and county1993-06
This study was undertaken in order to investigate the activities which took place in Irish pre-schools other than those within the formal school system. The principle focus of the research concerned the degree to which the pre-school children were being 'cognitively stretched' by the curriculum in which they were engaged. The social, linguistic, physical and creative development of these children was also considered.An historical review of the theory of play and recent research in this area was undertaken.Twenty-three pre-schools were taken at random from the membership list in Cork city and county of the Irish Pre- School Playgroups Association. One pre-school which was not a member was added. Prior to embarking upon the study, a history of the I.P.P.A. was given.The ethnographic research strategy was found to be the most suitable method of assessing empirically the nature and frequency of play in the pre-school. This study, which took place between 1986 and 1990, was therefore eclectic in nature, employing a multi-faceted approach encompassing a target child observational schedule, interviews, a study of classrooms, a questionnaire and an interaction analysis system.Briefly, the results showed that the 157 children engaged in this study were being cognitively stretched for approximately one quarter of the time if they were in a playgroup and approximately one half of the time if they were in a Montessori setting. Social and linguistic behaviour was limited by the actions of the pre-school leaders and physically or creatively challenging behaviour was rarely observed. The fact that the children played alone for half of the total time spent in the pre-school was most striking.The most important finding to emerge from the study of language in the twenty-four pre-schools was the fact that the children rarely communicated verbally. Dialogue was almost non-existent and children's questions were very sparse. In order to place the above in a National context, a questionnaire was sent in 1990 to a random sample of one hundred I.P.P.A. members in the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland. Unfortunately, only 39 responded. However, of note was that approximately 25% of playgroup leaders had degrees and four-fifths of them were mothers in their mid-thirties. They strongly disagreed with the teaching of the 3Rs and felt that much more government money should be devoted to playgroups and in-service training for their personnel.