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Is Whole-Day Better than Half-Day? Chinese Parents' and Educators' Perspectives on the Impact of Kindergarten Programs.

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

Integrative Statement

Hong Kong has witnessed a heightened demand for the whole-day kindergarten program given the prevalence of dual-income families and inadequacy of childcare facilities. However, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (hereafter the “HKSAR”) did not intend to fully subsidize the whole-day program when it launched public policies, such as the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme in 2006 (hereinafter the “PEVS”) and the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme in 2017, where only the half-day program received a substantive tuition support. This was because the international research community had not reached consensus about the developmental impact of the whole-day program on children. The HKSAR government, therefore, insists that the half-day program is “appropriate and adequate” for the local children. Moreover, since 2012, there have been calls from the education sector for free whole-day kindergarten program. To solve this complicated social-educational problem and to provide scientific evidence for public policy-making, the authors explored the perspectives of two important stakeholders ––parents and educators, towards the two programs’ impact across the child, parent, and educator levels.

Parents and educators from fifteen local PEVS-kindergartens which provided both the whole-day and half-day programs were randomly selected. PEVS-kindergartens, which constituted 74% of the kindergarten population, must follow the government’s rules strictly which included adopting the local curriculum and the minimum teacher–pupil ratio. Parents completed two rounds of questionnaires in April 2016 (N=304) and April 2017 (N=299) and provided information on family background, children’s outside-school learning experiences, and their perspectives on the whole-day versus half-day program via both quantitative and qualitative responses. Early childhood educators, comprising principals and teachers, completed a questionnaire in April 2016 (N=180) and provided information of their professional background and perspectives on the whole-day versus half-day kindergarten program impact. Thirty of them participated in follow-up semi-structured interviews in April 2017.

Program preference and perceptions of program in improving children’s outcomes were found to be significantly related to children’s program attendance (whole-day or half-day) for parents, and teaching of the whole-day program and higher kindergarten grades for educators. Both stakeholders perceived the whole-day program as more powerful in inducing greater achievement in children (see Figure 1). Parents and educators shared similarities and differences in their perceptions of program benefits (see Table 1).

The Chinese stakeholders were concerned about the shortage of whole-day places and inadequate government funding. Qualitative and interview responses indicated that stakeholders experienced a dilemma –– 1) safeguarding the Confucian beliefs of academic achievement and preparing children for primary schooling (perceived strength of the whole-day program) versus parents’ responsibility to provide children a happy childhood (perceived strength of the half-day program); 2) mother’s occupational participation while leaving children under the care of domestic helpers or grandparents versus spending quality time and building a strong relationship with their child during their childhood.

Program choice should rest upon the needs of the family and the child, and the families’ childcare resources. Suggestions for policy refinement include increasing the whole-day subsidy, priority whole-day program accessibility of needy families, and provision of more diverse childcare facilities.

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