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Reconceptualizing school readiness in Pakistan (2011)

  1. Reconceptualizing ‘School Readiness’ in Pakistan Sadaf Shallwani – October 28, 2011 Shallwani, S. (October, 2011). Reconceptualizing school readiness in Pakistan. Paper presented at the Reconceptualising Early Childhood Education Conference, London. Contact: Sadaf Shallwani, Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education / University of Toronto.
  2. International Context International trends Convention on the Rights of the Child Universal literacy and primary education consistent goals of many countries Globally, more and more children enrolling in primary school However: Many children are still not in school Primary completion rates are still low Many children move through the system without learning the skills schools are expected to teach them
  3. International Context Analysis of grade-disaggregated data indicates: Highest drop-out rates in Grades 1 and 2 High repetition in the early years Low levels of learning: many children do not reach expected levels in numeracy and literacy One Majority world context: Pakistan 1 of every 3 children will never enroll in primary school 1 of every 2 children who do enroll will drop-out before completing primary school Most of the children who drop-out will do so in Grades 1 and 2 The system is clearly not working for children.
  4. International Context Challenges facing primary schools Class size School facilities Availability of learning materials Teaching / learning methodologies System issues Inequity, poverty, natural disasters, political insecurity
  5. Focusing on Systems What are the socio-political implications of focusing discourse and analysis on different levels (individual, family, community, policy, etc.)? Many child outcomes are the result of systemic issues. Focusing the discourse and analysis on the child: Puts responsibility/blame on individuals/families Focuses interventions on the child (and family) Allows us to ignore the systemic roots of the problems Focusing the discourse and analysis on the system: Promotes action for systemic change?
  6. Rights-Based Perspective Children have a right to good quality education Children have the right to a school environment that supports their growth and learning So: Schools must be ready for children (regardless of whether children are ‘ready for school’) Schools are responsible to create an environment where children can successfully enter, adjust, and learn and progress.
  7. Need for conceptualizations and indicators Education – a global issue Many countries have explicitly adopted objectives of universal literacy and schooling in the goals of improving human and social development Conceptualizations and indicators of the ‘quality’ of education systems are perhaps necessary to both inform and monitor change and progress at micro- and macro- levels.
  8. Need for conceptualizations and indicators Little work done on ‘ready schools’ Need conceptualizations and measures that are: culturally valid socially relevant grounded in context and dialogue allowing for reflection and change acknowledging values and assumptions (Kağitçibasi, 1996; Myers, 2004)
  9. Reconceptualizing ‘School Readiness’ in Pakistan Developing a contextually-grounded understanding of school readiness in Pakistan What is a 'ready school' in Pakistan? What kinds of school environments enable children's success in early primary? This study examines school-level factors which are associated with children’s successful entry and adjustment to primary school in Pakistan, and explores the socially constructed meanings of this experience by those involved in it.
  10. Methodology Quantitative data (36 government schools in Sindh, Pakistan) School-level factors (e.g., school facilities, teacher-child ratio, classroom environment, etc.) Aggregate indicators of child outcomes (e.g., attendance, retention, learning achievement) in Grade 1 Planned: Multi-level modelling analyses Qualitative data (5 government schools in Sindh, Pakistan) Interviews with headteachers and Grade 1 teachers Focus group discussions with parents of Grade 1 students Focus group discussions with Grade 1 students
  11. Discussions with Children Options: playing with dolls/puppets, drawing, ‘just talking’ Playing with dolls/puppets Pretend play – not familiar Discomfort with bringing in and then taking away the dolls from the children at the end Drawing – tweaks to method Free drawing first In some cases, had to suggest starting point of how to draw school Noted what was what and photographed drawings with children’s permission After, gave class colouring pencils and crayons
  12. Discussions with Children “Can you draw me a picture of you and your school?” “Can you tell me about your drawing?” Some questions: “What do you do in school?” “Why do you come to school?” “What are the reasons you don’t come to school sometimes?” “Do you remember when you first started coming to school? What was it like? ” “What do you like about school?” “Is there anything you don’t like about school?”
  13. Discussions with Children 30 children Urban and rural schools in Sindh Government schools – low income families Of the 5 schools, 2 schools had an ECE intervention- Releasing Confidence and Creativity (RCC)
  14. School A: Urban, Girls, RCC 3 girls, 2 boys Similar structures drawn for schools Saba and her sister are going to school. Saba: “We’ll go to the class. Then the teacher will come. She’ll come and then make us do work.”
  15. School A: Urban, Girls, RCC Laraib is leaving school. Laraib: “I’m smiling.” Are you smiling because you had fun in school? Laraib: (No response.) Are you smiling because you had fun in school or because you’re happy to go home? Laraib: (Giggles.) “Both. I like going home.”
  16. School B: Urban, Mixed, Non-RCC 2 boys, 1 girl Similar structures drawn for school Shahbaz at school What do you do in school? Shahbaz: “We study. In half-time we play. Then we have tuition.” Felt KG and Grade 1 are similar. Why is it important to study? Shahbaz: “Because we’ll have papers and dictation.”
  17. School C: Rural, Mixed, Non-RCC 7 girls, 5 boys No previous experience with drawing Spoke with girls and boys separately Spoke with children from different village separately but discretely (power difference, exclusion) What do you do in school? Dilshad: “First we write akhar.” “Then we do sabak.” “Then we have recess.” “Then we do akhar.” “Then it’s time to go home.”
  18. School C: Rural, Mixed, Non-RCC What do you do in school? Kashif: “The teacher does attendance.” “Then we do slates.” “Then we write akhar.” Do you play? Kashif: “We don’t play in class.” Do you understand what you learn? Manu: “A little bit. Not a lot.” Were you scared when you first started school? Manu: “A little bit.” “That teacher might hit us.” “Once we started studying, then the fear went away.”
  19. School C: Rural, Mixed, Non-RCC Do you like school? Yes. What do you like about school? ‘Sabak’. Do you like recess? Yes. Do you like the teacher? Yes. Do you like the classroom? Yes. Do you have any friends? (No response.) Do you have friends? The teacher. Any other friends? No. Is there anything you don’t like in school? (No response.) Do you like the other children? (Whispered) They are ‘kina’ (bad). Why? (No response.) Do they play with you? No. Do they talk to you? No Why not? I don’t know. The teacher is okay? Yes.
  20. School D: Rural, Boys, RCC 7 boys No previous experience with drawing Do you like the classroom? “Yes.” “But this KG classroom is better.” “There are toys in it. There are no toys in our classroom.” “This classroom looks new. It is new. Ours is old.”
  21. School E: Rural, Boys, Non-RCC 3 boys No previous experience with drawing Do you play in school? "No. There aren’t any toys to play with." What do you during the break? "We drink water." Why do you come to school? "To study." Is it important to study? Why is it important to study? "So we can get good jobs when we grow up, and get good pay."
  22. Emerging Themes Limited self-expression? Overall positive responses (cultural context?) School work. Half-time/break play. Schoolwork mostly “akhar” and “sabak”. School subjects: language and math. Akhar: writing alphabet letters (or single words). Sabak: listening to/reading lessons. Children at RCC schools perceived some difference between KG and Grade 1 (classroom environment, play). Coming to school to ‘study’. Important. Why? Anxieties when starting school: scared teacher would hit them Inclusion/exclusion, power dynamics
  23. Reflections on Methodology Unfamiliarity with self-expression? Drawings Foreign methodology – appropriate? (Is there any culturally appropriate methodology for self-expression in the context? Is self-expression itself valued in the context?) Experience with drawing – frees or limits creativity? Strangeness of asking children to draw ‘school’ Use of space and colour in drawing Presence of self, other people (which people), things (which things) in drawings – absence of classmates and teacher in most drawings Balancing group discussions with one-on-one conversations
  24. Reflections on Methodology Ethics, validity Bringing in a foreign methodology – unfamiliar but children enjoyed it Perceptions of researcher (outsider, authority figure) Contradictions between context and methodology (separating child from context, idea of self-expression) Hierarchical collective culture (implicit, explicit- pressure, privacy, gatekeeper), power dynamics Notions of confidentiality, consent, assent… cultural validity of ethical principles