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A Two-year Longitudinal Study on Kindergarten Program Duration Impact on Chinese Preschoolers’ Development

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

The question of whether a longer kindergarten day can improve child outcomes has been debated in the West since the 1970s, yet the research findings are still inconclusive (Copper et al., 2010; Brownell et al., 2015). The mixed findings caused the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (the HKSARG) reluctant to promote the whole-day kindergarten program (7-hour/day), albeit the public pressure to fully subsidize it. Despite the growing demand for the whole-day program due to women’s increasing workforce involvement and inadequate childcare facilities, the HKSARG still insisted that the half-day program (3-hour/day) was appropriate, and launched the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme (hereinafter “the Scheme”) (Education Bureau, 2016) to make the half-day program free since 2017–2018. This policy, however, has left the whole-day program under-subsidized and has been challenged by local stakeholders, policymakers, and scholars, who believe that an additional dosage of daily kindergarten instruction will have a greater impact on children’s development. There is a pressing need to address this complicated social-educational problem by examining the whole-day versus half-day program impact using a territory-wide longitudinal study.

This study randomly sampled 15 kindergartens out of the 377 which offered both whole-day and half-day programs and which joined the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS). PEVS-kindergartens must meet specific regulations including following the local curriculum and undergoing regular quality reviews conducted by the Education Bureau. A pair of half-day and whole-day K1 (aged 3) classes was randomly selected from each kindergarten from which 14 students were recruited, yielding a sample of 346 children: 186 whole-day (94 males/92 females) and 160 half-day children (79 males/81 females), statistically significant at the 0.15 power analysis level (p = .5) (Cohen, 1988). Four waves of child assessment were conducted –– Wave 1 (Fall 2015), Wave 2 (Spring 2016), Wave 3 (Fall 2016), and Wave 4 (Spring 2017), using validated and culturally appropriate instruments, e.g., the Hong Kong Early Child Development Scale (Rao et al., 2013) and the PREFIT Fitness Battery (Ortega et al., 2014), to assess children’s language, cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. All the measures achieved good levels of reliability (r  .7) and internal consistency (r  .7). An acceptable attrition rate of 10.12% was observed at Wave 4.

A set of MANCOVAs indicated mixed and generally non-significant findings (see Table 1). Therefore, generalized estimating equations were conducted to predict children’s outcomes across the two years with program duration as the independent variable (see Table 2). Apart from mid-arm circumference, skinfold thickness, and balancing with the preferred leg, program type did not significantly predict children’s outcomes.

Similar to some Western-normed studies, this Chinese-focused study did not find a significant relationship between program duration and children’s outcomes. When choosing a kindergarten program for their child, parents should understand that it is the quality of learning experiences that matters, not the duration of school hours. The HKSARG could refine the Scheme by increasing the whole-day places and subsidy to meet the diverse needs of different households, e.g., low-income or dual-income families without a child carer.

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