The effectiveness of current preschool education programmes with special reference to children's readiness for formal schooling.
The two principal aims of this study were: (a) to evaluate the effectiveness of existing pre-primary education for Indian children and (b) to determine the relative effectiveness of three current school readiness programmes. Random samples of pupils, with varying preschool backgrounds, were drawn from Class i children attending selected Indian primary schools in the Greater Durban area. Information relating to the four groups formed in this way are given below: Sample A: pupils who had attended registered private pre-primary schools (N = 50); Sample B: pupils who had attended departmental bridging module classes (N = 40); Sample C: pupils who had attended community-run preprimary classes (N = 50) ; and Sample D: pupils who had had no formal preschool education (N = 30). To make the four groups comparable, variables such as age, sex, intelligence and socio-economic status were controlled. In keeping with the abovementioned aims the following sets of comparisons were made: (a) the performances, on a test of school readiness, of those pupils who had had some form of formal preschool education (Groups A, B and C) were compared with those who did not receive any such education (Group D); and (b) the performances, on a test of school readiness, of pupils who came from the three different types of preschool backgrounds (A, B and C) were compared with one another. Questionnaires were also completed by a sample of Class i Junior Primary teachers in the Greater Durban area (N = 35). Teachers were asked to comment and report on issues relating to pre-primary schools and classes, the extent of pupil readiness for Class i, the effectiveness of school readiness tests, and matters relating to the Class i curriculum. The purpose of this part of the study was to identify problems in subject areas related to preschool education so that appropriate remedial action could be suggested. There was consensus among Class i teachers that preschool education promotes school readiness. This was confirmed by the results of this study. Groups A, Band C which had received preschool education performed significantly better than group D which comprised pupils who had had no preschool education. The findings also indicated that the preschool programme offered by the departmental bridging module classes was more effective in promoting school readiness than the programme offered by either the registered private pre-primary schools or community-run preprimary classes. Teachers rated the programme offered by Departmental bridging module class to be the most effective for preparing children for formal education. The registered, private pre-primary schools came second, and the community-run classes, third. This rating was again confirmed by the findings of this study. When it came to rating the various subjects in the Class i curriculum in order of difficulty, the following rank-orders were obtained: English (most difficult) followed by Mathematics, Writing, Environmental Studies, Art and Music. They also identified specific short-comings among Class i pupils in each subject area. A number of recommendations are made so that the problems identified by the investigation can be addressed. These relate to pre-primary educational provision, resources and support services, the environment as a resource, teaching, testing and the curriculum. Education authorities, pre-primary teachers, parents and Junior primary teachers are urged to adopt a team approach in the solution of problems relating to young children's education.