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The perils and promises of listening to parents: Encountering unexpected barriers to improving preschool in Ghana

Mon, April 15, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront D

Proposal

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the demand for and supply of early childhood education (ECE) in low- and middle-in- come countries (LMICs). The Ghanaian government was the first nation in Sub-Saharan Africa to pass national legislation for universal access to two years of pre-primary education (i.e., kindergarten [KG]), and is currently working to both expand access and improve the quality of existing services (Ghana Education Service, 2012). The top priorities as stated in 2012 were to provide training to the untrained teachers in the KG curriculum and pedagogy and to engage parents in their children’s education.

Through a partnership with the Ministry of Education and Innovations for Poverty Action, we assessed the impacts of a teacher professional development program, with and without parental awareness meetings, for public and private kindergartens in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. We examined impacts on teacher professional well-being, classroom quality, and children’s readiness using a school-randomized trial in 240 schools. Schools were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: teacher training (TT), teacher training plus parental-awareness meetings (TTPA), and control group. The programs incorporated workshops and in-classroom coaching for teachers, and video-based discussion groups for parents. Moderate impacts were found on some dimensions of professional well-being (reduced burnout in the TT and TTPA conditions, reduced turnover in the TT condition), classroom quality (increased emotional support/behavior management in the TT and TTPA conditions, support for student expression in the TT condition), and small impacts on multiple domains of children’s school readiness (in the TT condition). One surprising finding was that the parental-awareness meetings had counteracting effects on some elements of classroom quality and on child school readiness outcomes. One year after the intervention, persistent counteracting effects of adding a parental-awareness intervention on children’s overall school readiness varied by literacy status of the male household head such that negative impacts were found for children in households’ with a male head who was not literate.

This presentation will provide an overview of the findings from the randomized evaluation, but focus on the implementation and interpretation of the counter-active impacts of the parental awareness component. Qualitative interviews with teachers and caregivers who participated in the meetings will be presented, shedding light on some of the possible mechanisms of the counter-acting effects. Preliminary analyses indicate that barriers may have included concern by parents about changes in corporal punishment / disciplinary strategies, poor implementation, and perceptions of the district education officer who delivered the intervention. Implications for creating culturally-informed early childhood educational parent engagement programs in Ghana, with possible implications for other low- and middle-income countries, will be discussed.

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