Continuity and Respect for Diversity: Strengthening Early Transitions in Peru, Working Paper 56
Young Lives, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos
This document from Young Lives and the Bernard van Leer Foundation is part of a series on children’s early transitions. It explores the diverse experiences of 28 children from four contrasting communities in Peru as they experience the transition from home or pre-school to the first grade of school. It examines issues of continuity for children at home, pre-school, and primary school, as well as communication between parents and teachers. The document proposes ways in which children’s early educational transitions can be enhanced, looking at such factors as educational structures, curriculum planning, and teacher training.
Peruvian children who are being studied as part of the Young Lives 15-year longitudinal research project were the subjects of this study. Survey data from the first two rounds of the larger research project from 2002 and 2006/07 were used, as well as qualitative data from the first two rounds of a sub-sample (2007 and 2008). The document also follows on from a preliminary analysis of early transitions using data from the first round (Ames, Rojas, and Portugal, 2009) .
The case studies detailed in the document highlight common problems: exclusion of certain parts of the population from pre-school services, lack of coordination between pre-schools and primary schools, and issues with physical punishment and cultural diversity. The research examines the quality of pre-school and school service, exploring issues such as motivation, punishment, and language use. Issues of gender, language, culture, and identity are central to the analysis because they were found to influence the experiences of children in their transitions from one setting to the next. The evidence showed the following:
- children highlighted discontinuities and contrasts between pre-school and first grade,
- teachers reported a lack of coordination and communication between pre-school and primary schools, and
- parents saw pre-school as a necessary step for preparing their children for school and expected primary school to be a change and an adjustment from the pre-school environment.
The paper recommends a route towards continuity in the pre-school to school transition that is different from the approach of aligning early childhood education with the aims, requirements, and practices of primary school, referred to as the pre-primary approach to early education (sometimes called "schoolification"). It describes an alternative from Nordic countries called the social pedagogy tradition which acknowledges that some of the strengths of early childhood practice, such as the holistic approach to child development, including attention to health and well-being, respect for the natural learning strategies of the child (such as learning through play, active and experiential learning, and personal investigation), and use of the outdoor environment as a pedagogical tool, should be reflected at least in the first years of primary school. In short, the paper suggests that primary schools learn from pre-school and childcare practices, where a child-centred approach has been more established than in primary education. As stated here, "children’s natural learning strategies promote cognitive development and this has implications for future school performance through solid cognitive foundations."
The document calls for equal partnership between childcare programmes, pre-school programmes, and primary education . "It is necessary to develop, on one hand, curriculum and instructional practices that meet children’s interest (making the school ready for children); and, on the other hand, an educational culture that helps children to be ready for school." The authors call for work at all levels on educational structures and policies, curriculum planning, and pedagogy. The theoretical and practical training of teachers working with young children is cited as a priority.
The authors and the children interviewed are critical of physical punishment, which becomes increasingly prevalent as the children progress. "Anxiety can inhibit the child from mobilising her or his existing skills and talents when entering school." The document calls for decisive action against the presence of physical punishment.
As stated here, schools and teachers must work on factors that make school a hostile environment for non-dominant cultures. Peruvian national educational policy stresses an intercultural approach, but practice does not meet policy expectations; thus, school culture is not accepting of diversity and does not meet the needs of children from a variety of socio-cultural backgrounds. Better home–school communication is recommended as one of the key ways of facilitating better transitions between educational settings. Parents are found to be ill-prepared to support their children in the transition and are in need of more information and training. Parents need clear information on what to expect in the transition to school and how to support it. Schools need to be a welcoming environment for entire families.
Email from Virginia Rey-Sánchez to The Communication Initiative on August 10 and October 10 2010.