SCHOOL READINESS AMONG MALAYSIAN PRESCHOOL

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SCHOOL READINESS:
WHAT ASPECTS SHOULD THE TEACHERS’ TO
UNDERSTAND?
Abstract
Zainudin Abu Bakar, Dr.
Faculty of Education
University Technology Malaysia
[email protected], [email protected]
The first six years of life lay the foundation for many of the knowledge bases
and skill required for successful school adjustment and later adult
competence. The readiness or developmental status of a child when he or she
makes the transition from home to school is the result of a complex web of
interactions between the child’s genetic endowment and the environment
around the child. This study explored several aspects in school readiness and
the importance of it to the personal development of the child in schooling life.
A rural school from Batu Pahat was selected as a location of the research. Year
One students were selected as the respondents of the study. In order to
measure their school readiness several inventories for school readiness were
used for the basic reference such as School Readiness Scale by Brackon (1984)
and Nurture Group Reintegration Readiness Scale by Doyle (2001). This is
very important for the study to develop a comprehensive Model of School
Readiness. To gain more information about the respondents’ personal
experience especially in upbringing their child, the interview session was
conducted. The data explored a personal involvement of the respondents in
the readiness process of the child as well as a supplement of the quantitative
data. The study have identified five major aspects that should be included in
defining the student readiness are physical well-being and motor
development, emotional health and a positive approach to new experiences,
social knowledge and competence, language skills, and general knowledge
and cognitive skills. Majority of the respondents were not fully ready for
school. They were found ready in certain aspect like cognitive but not for
many other aspects. A model of school readiness was also developed and
presented as a conclusion of the study.
1
1.0 Introduction
The first six years of life lay the foundation for many of the knowledge bases and
skill required for successful school adjustment and later adult competence. The
readiness or developmental status of a child when he or she makes the transition
from home to school is the result of a complex web of interactions between the
child’s genetic endowment and the environment around the child (For further
explanation on genetic and environment, see Rice, 1997).
Making sure all young children enter school healthy and prepared to
succeed, and that all schools are ready to help every child succeed, are critical to
the future success of our community, religion, and nation. This is consistent to
the Ninth Malaysia Plan where the human capital is vital to the achievement of
the national mission (Ninth Malaysia Plan, 2006). One of the cores of the plan is
to develop a competent citizen which should be started as early as preschool
(Pelan Induk Pembangunan Pendidikan, 2006). Without proper detection system
the idea to produce a comprehensive well-being personality will be problematic.
Moreover, the urgency to have a comprehensive profiling system is inline
with the aspiration of the National Educational Plan. School-based assessment
for instance will not be fully successful if the procedure of assessing the student
is not been conducted as early as the preschool. It is therefore, the profiling
system for early childhood schooling becomes fundamental.
Readiness to learn within a child in short can be defined in terms of five
domains such as physical well-being and motor development, emotional health
and a positive approach to new experiences, social knowledge and competence,
language skills, and general knowledge and cognitive skills (Kagan, 2000). This is
in line with the National Educational Philosophy which embarking a
comprehensive development of the student including physical, emotional,
cognitive, spiritual as well as their personality.
Gredler (1992) earlier however have defined readiness according to several
aspects which include chronological age, maturation, prerequisite skill
acquisition, and combination of growth, maturation, and social experiences.
Regardless to what and how readiness is been defined, these elements are going
well beyond the traditional idea that only cognitive and language skills are
needed to have a successful start in school.
2
2.0 Problem Background
A lot of stress and anxiety can be avoided or reduced if the children are wellprepared for the upcoming school year. The most important thing is to find out
what is expected of the child and what the specific new challenges will be,
knowing challenges the child will be facing, and discussing them before hand is
a great preparation. The more ready the child, the less surprises they will be,
ensuring a smooth beginning of a school life. In other words, the child will be
ready to start the process of learning how to do things independently. Therefore,
readiness is essential for the child to start their schooling life. Prepared well, it
provides opportunities, opens up minds, and stimulates child’s active
involvement in the teaching and learning processes. Unprepared, it restricts
options and thought, and heavily relies on authority and submissiveness (Lewit
and Baker, 2003).
Love (2001) highlighted the importance of readiness in entering schooling
life. It is crucial for the child especially in ensuring their schooling life as so much
fun and interesting as possible. In other words, their first five years to be
fundamental to their developmental processes. Many educators view children’s
learning as an on going process that begins at birth and continuous throughout
life, not just when a child enters school. In the United States for example, one of
its main Educational Plan objective is to have 100% of Americans that ready for
school by year 2000 (http://www.aft.org/topics/ece/readiness.htm). It is then,
all efforts has been devoted to ensure the main target is fulfil.
In Malaysia, the issue of school readiness is usually referred to the
acquisition of the 3M skills (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic). The preschoolers
are required to master these 3M to enable them to follow the teaching and
learning successfully. It is understood that without acquiring these skills, the
child is predicted to encounter a great challenge in their schooling life.
The high concerned on acquiring these skills is reflected through the daily
educational practices in school. Such programmes like remedial classes, extra
classes or even personal tuition for instance just reflect how important those
skills to the child’s early schooling life.
It was reported that more than 80,000 children who enter the Year 1
schools have problems in the 3M skills (Bahagian Sekolah, 1993). Although there
were so many efforts had been done from specific programmes to inservice
training to help them acquiring the skills, the results were still below expectation.
In 1999 for instance, from 53,544 students who enters remedial classes, only
3
28,801 (about 54%) students managed to go through the programme successfully
(Jabatan Pendidikan Khas, 1999).
As mentioned above, the educational processes should concern not just to
the acquisition of the 3M but rather to assist the children to be ready for their
fascinating schooling life. Schooling life, as many educators argued, is a complex
process. Failing to develop the students’ personal potential may render their
schooling life to miserable experiences. In ensuring the students ready for such
challenges it is the system to provide a sufficient strategy to help them develop
and undergone schooling life easily and effectively. Children who ready for their
school will have more secure relationships with adults and are better equipped
to follow directions and more likely to trust figures of authority and be able to
communicate their needs. Young children are capable learners, and having these
into place during their preschool years makes it possible for them to learn at a
faster rate, become better readers and, consequently, better students
A comprehensive model is therefore critical. It is more than just describing
the preschoolers’ readiness but rather the opportunity to explore the potential
problems that they may encountered through out. It becomes evident that this
study need to be conducted so that the preschooler’s school readiness can be
detected as early as they are about to enter the formal primary school. The model
is useful to design specific strategies or programmes according to the specific
need of the children. By looking at the student needs, the educational processes
will be something that are interesting and fascinating not just to the students but
the teachers and parents as well. Tackling the right sources is very much
fundamental.
3.0 Research Objectives
As mentioned earlier this study is therefore fundamental to embark the
following objectives:
1. To identify the school readiness problems among preschool children in
Malaysia
2. To evaluate the main factor(s) that influence the preschool children’s
school readiness
3. To design a Model of School Readiness to be used as a tool for assessing
the preschooler’s school readiness.
4
4.0 Methodology
This research uses three types of field work procedure such as distributing
questionnaire, conducting interview, and setting up a field observation.
Research Instruments
Questionnaire
Questionnaire is distributed firstly to investigate the current situation of
the preschooler’s school readiness level. Several inventories for school readiness
are used for the basic reference such as School Readiness Scale by Brackon (1984)
and Nurture Group Reintegration Readiness Scale by Doyle (2001). This is very
important for the study to develop a comprehensive Model of School Readiness.
Interview
In this part, the selected respondents are interviewed regarding the
predetermined aspects of the research. This is to gain more information about the
respondents’ personal experience especially in upbringing their child. The data
explored a personal involvement of the respondents in the readiness process of
the child as well as a supplement of the quantitative data.
Field Observation
This procedure is used to countercheck the reliability and validity of the
data collected through questionnaire and interview. Through field observation,
the real situation is explored. The daily life of the respondents, especially the
child, is recorded to investigate how their time is being spent.
Population/Sample and Respondent
All preschoolers in Malaysia are considered as the population of the
study. The respondents of the questionnaire are selected by using stratified
random sampling. Purposive sampling of the teachers is also used to select the
respondents for the interview and field observation. However, only those who
have agreed to participate in the interview and to be observed were selected as
the respondents. This agreement is asked in the early questionnaire stage.
5
5.0 Findings and Discussions
In brief, the preliminary findings of the study are as follows:
1. Five major aspects that should be included in defining the student readiness
are physical well-being and motor development, emotional health and a
positive approach to new experiences, social knowledge and competence,
language skills, and general knowledge and cognitive skills
2. Children need to be read to and talked with more
3. Children who have successful preschool experience are better prepared to
start school
4. Children from families that understand children should enter school with
some skills, are better prepared
5. Mother’s education level, family income, language spoken at home, all affect
the family views about the importance of starting school with some skills and
thus the amount of knowledge a child enters school with
6. Increased parenting support helps families increase engagement with their
children
7. Families will use and children do benefit from materials that prepare them to
start school
6
8. The Expected School Readiness Model to be developed are as follow:
PHYSICAL WELLBEING AND
MOTOR
DEVELOPMENT
EMOTIONALLY
HEALTH AND A
POSITIVE
APPROACH TO
NEW EXPERIENCES
INPUT
- SCHOOL
- PARENTS/FAMILY
- PEERS
- ENVIRONMENT
SOCIAL
KNOWLEDGE AND
COMPETENCE
READY FOR
SCHOOL
LANGUAGE SKILLS
GENERAL
KNOWLEDGE AND
COGNITIVE SKILLS
6.0 Concluding Remarks
In short, it is crucial for the children to be ready by the year they are entering the
formal school. Family, school, the system, and the environment in this sense
plays important role in influencing the children readiness for school. When they
are ready, it provides opportunities, opens up minds, and stimulates child’s
active involvement in the teaching and learning processes In other words, failing
to develop the students’ personal potential may render their schooling life to
miserable experiences
7
7.0 Bibliography
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Bahagian Sekolah. (1993). Retrieved from
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sh.htm
Beaty, J. (1990). Observing development of the young child. Columbus, OH: Charles
Merill.
Bennathan, M. & Boxall, M. (1996). Effective intervention in primary schools: Nurture
Groups. London: Fulton.
Bracken, B.A. (1984). Bracken Basic Concept Scales. San Antonio, TX: Psychological
Corporation.
Doyle, R. (2001). Using a readiness scale for reintegrating pupils with wmotional
and behavioural difficulties from a Nurture Group in their mainstream
classroom – a pilot study. British Journal of Special Education, 28 (3), p. 126 –
132.
Gredler, G.R. (1992). School readiness: Assessment and education issues. Bracdon, VT:
Clinical Psychology Publishing.
Hills, T.W. (1992). Reaching potentials through appropriate assessments. In S.
Bredekamp & T. Rosegrant (Eds.). Reaching potentials: Appropriate curriculum
and assessment for young children (Vol. 1, p.43 – 63). Washington, DC:
National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Jabatan Pendidikan Khas. (1999). Retrieved from
http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/SpecialCoverage/RMK9/html/engli
sh.htm
Kagan, S.L. (2000). Rethinking rhetoric and responsibility. Phi Delta Kappan
(December 1990) 1, pp. 272 – 79.
Lewit, E.M. & Baker, L.S. (2003). Child indicators: School readiness. Retrieved
from http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2826
Linn, R.L. & Gronlund, N.E. (2000). Measurement and assessment in education.
Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Love, J.M. (2001). Instrumentation for state readiness assessment: Issues in
measuring children’s early development and learning. Paper prepared for
discussion at the Assessing the State of State Assessments Symposium,
Renaissance Concourse Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1987). Standardised
testing of young children 3 through 8 years of age (NAEYC position statement)
[Online]: Retrieved from
http://www.naeyc.org/resources/position_statements/pstestin.htm
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1996).
Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children
8
from birth through age 8 [Online]. Retrieved from
http://www.naeyc.org/resources/position_statements/daptoc.htm
Ninth Malaysia Plan. (2006). Retrieved from
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sh.htm
Pelan Induk Pembangunan Pendidikan 2006 – 2010. (2006). Putrajaya:
Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia.
Rice, F.P. (1997). Child and adolescent development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Woolfolk, A.E. (2004). Educational psychology. Boston: Pearson & AB.
Yeo Kee Jiar, Othman Md Johan and Zainudin Abu Bakar. (2002). Pembinaan
ujian kesediaan membaca dalam Bahasa Melayu untuk murid-murid
prasekolah di Malaysia. Kajian Jangka Pendek RMC: Vote 71762. Skudai:
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
Retrieved from (http://www.aft.org/topics/ece/readiness.htm) 10 January
2008.
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