The transition from kindergarten to primary school, as experienced by teachers, parents and children in Hong Kong

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Simon Fraser University]On: 15 November 2014, At: 04:56Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Early Child Development and CarePublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/gecd20

    The transition from kindergarten toprimary school, as experienced byteachers, parents and children in HongKongWai Ling Chan aa Department of Early Childhood Education , Hong Kong Instituteof Education , Tai Po, Hong KongPublished online: 09 Jan 2009.

    To cite this article: Wai Ling Chan (2010) The transition from kindergarten to primary school, asexperienced by teachers, parents and children in Hong Kong, Early Child Development and Care,180:7, 973-993, DOI: 10.1080/03004430802586130

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03004430802586130

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  • Early Child Development and CareVol. 180, No. 7, August 2010, 973993

    ISSN 0300-4430 print/ISSN 1476-8275 online 2010 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/03004430802586130http://www.informaworld.com

    The transition from kindergarten to primary school, as experienced by teachers, parents and children in Hong Kong

    Wai Ling Chan*

    Department of Early Childhood Education, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Tai Po, Hong KongTaylor and FrancisGECD_A_358781.sgm(Received 30 September 2008; final version received 28 October 2008)10.1080/03004430802586130Early Childhood Development and Care0300-4430 (print)/1476-8275 (online)Original Article2008Taylor & Francis0000000002008Wai LingChanwlyu@ied.edu.hk

    This study investigates the transition from kindergarten to primary school throughthe experiences of the teachers, parents and children involved. Emphasis is givento the transitional activities participated in by the stakeholders and theeffectiveness of these activities. These experiences of childrens transition toschool will inform further research into the design of effective transitionprogrammes in the local context. The means of investigation in this study includequestionnaires, semi-structured interviews and observations. The results show thatthe teachers and parents generally believed that the children performed quite wellacademically, although the primary school teachers reported that they wereaverage in discipline. The findings from both the questionnaires and the interviewsshow that most of the respondents agreed that strong connections betweenkindergarten, primary school and parents could facilitate a smoother transition toschool. However, in reality, both kindergarten and primary school teachersshowed ignorance of each others teaching practices and curriculum.

    Keywords: transitional activities; experiences; effective transitional programmes

    Introduction

    The transition to school is believed to be one of the most important changes thatoccurs in childhood (Curtis, 1986). This transition is a developmental and transac-tional process, during which the changes are continual and vary as children grow, andtheir peer groups, families, teachers, schools and even community are all involved andinteract with one another (Ramey & Ramey, 1994). Some studies have found that asmooth transition to school contributes to childrens later academic and social success(Dockett & Perry, 2003; Pianta, Rimm-Kaufman, & Cox, 1999; Ramey, Lanzi,Phillips, & Ramey, 1998).

    The transition to school has long been a popular topic for investigation andresearch in the field of early childhood education. Various international studies haveconsidered both the risk factors and outcomes of the transition process, as well asmeasures and suggestions for a successful transition. The context of this study is thetransition experiences of teachers, parents and children in Hong Kong.

    Both the authorities and academics in Hong Kong have been concerned with theissue of the transition to school from as early as 1993, the year in which the localEducation Department carried out research to investigate the continuity of teaching

    *Email: wlyu@ied.edu.hk

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  • 974 W.L. Chan

    practices between the kindergarten and primary school levels of education. In recentyears, the Education Bureau (EDB) has begun to organise seminars and workshopsto gather the school heads and teachers of preschools and primary schools to allowthem to discuss and share their experiences of childrens transition. The CurriculumDevelopment Council (CDC) in June 2001 launched a seed project concerningthis transition in two pilot primary schools (see http://www.edb.gov.hk/index.aspx?nodeid=2874&langno=2). The aim of this project was to strengthen transitionpractices based on the guidelines of the Basic Education Curriculum Guide Booklet 9A: Interface at Kindergarten and Primary One (2002) to help children tomake a smoother transition. Although the results of these activities and projectswere fruitful, such events are not regularly held; hence, only limited stakeholders areinvolved and benefit. Other than these ad hoc projects and activities, parents andschools can only collect the information and guidelines published by the educationauthorities in booklets and leaflets about helping children to adapt to their newprimary school life.

    Children in Hong Kong are required by law to have formal schooling from the ageof five years and eight months. There are essentially no prerequisites for eligible appli-cants to enter primary school in Hong Kong, although most parents tend to enrol theirchildren in preschools. According to the 2001 population census of Hong Kong, therate of school attendance in the three to five age groups was 94.7%, which is a veryhigh percentage. This is because parents in Hong Kong generally believe that apreschool education can prepare their children to enter primary school (Ebbeck,1995).

    There have been studies related to the transition to school in Hong Kong, but mostof them have aimed to identify the difficulties faced by children (Chan, Lau, & Poon,1999; Wong, 2003) or to investigate the continuities between the preschool andprimary school curricula (Education Department, 1993; Kwun Tong GovernmentPrimary School (AM), 2002). There is limited research that investigates the transitionexperiences of the teachers, parents and children in Hong Kongs preschools andprimary schools.

    A study by Chan et al. (1999) investigated the transition practices adopted bykindergartens and primary schools and found that the latter did hold transitional activ-ities at the beginning of the academic year, but had few communications with parentsthereafter. The study also found that kindergartens also had activities to prepare chil-dren for the transition to primary school and that they had a close relationship withparents.

    The goals of the current study are as follows:

    (1) To investigate how teachers and parents prepare children for primary school.(2) To identify the experiences of teachers, parents and children in the transition

    to school.

    Methods and procedures

    Data were collected from the teachers and parents through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. As the children were too young to fill in questionnaires, inter-views and observations were used to collect their opinions and viewpoints.

    The samples for investigation were chosen randomly from different locationswithin Hong Kong and include two kindergartens, one childcare centre and three

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  • Early Child Development and Care 975

    government-aided primary schools. The study was limited to Kindergarten Three (K3)and Primary One (P1) children. The form teachers and parents from the selected classesreceived questionnaires and were invited to attend interviews. One kindergarten andone primary school were chosen for classroom observation.

    The exact numbers of the study participants are as follows:

    (1) 26 kindergarten teachers who taught in K3;(2) 12 primary school teachers who taught in P1;(3) 259 parents of children from the K3 classes of three preschools;(4) 523 parents of children from the P1 classes of three primary schools; and(5) 40 children aged six to seven who studied in K3 at the same kindergarten.

    Results

    Questionnaires

    About 820 questionnaires were distributed to the participants, and 418 of them werereturned, of which 6.22% were answered by kindergarten teachers, 17.46% by kinder-garten parents, 2.40% by primary school teachers and 73.92% by primary schoolparents.

    The ways to prepare children to adapt to primary school life

    Table 1 presents the most popular ways among teachers and parents to help childrento be well prepared and equipped for the primary curriculum, and Table 2 presents themethods they use to help them adapt to primary school life. It was found that teachingchildren the proper posture for holding a pencil is the most frequently adopted prepa-ratory activity carried out by preschool teachers, followed by encouraging children toread. Preschool teachers said they only gave tests and dictations to children some-times. The results show that only very few of the parents gave their children privatetuition; however, they sometimes asked their children to do supplementary exercises.Primary school teachers and both preschool and primary school parents rated encour-age children to read as the most common way of preparing children to adapt toprimary school life.

    From the results shown in Table 2, it can be seen that the methods used by teachersand parents to help children become accustomed to primary school life were ratherdiverse. The most common method used by preschool teachers and parents is trainingchildren for independence, whereas, for primary school teachers and parents, teachingchildren the rules and regulations of primary school was more popular. Primaryschool teachers also often chose offer more care to newcomers. Table 2 shows thatparents generally do not explain and discuss primary school life with their children asfrequently as teachers do, as the mean score was lower than 4.00 for parents, whereasthose for preschool and primary school teachers were 4.00 and 4.22, respectively.

    Transitional activities organised/participation and effectiveness

    The responses from the preschool teachers show that the most popular, and also mosteffective, transitional activity is letting children visit a primary school, with a meanof 4.15. Although most of the preschools do arrange visits to primary schools for thechildren, they seldom give them the chance to have lessons together with the primary

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    Tabl

    e 1.

    Way

    s to

    acc

    usto

    m c

    hild

    ren

    to t

    he p

    rim

    ary

    curr

    icul

    um.

    Per

    cent

    age

    of a

    nsw

    ers

    (%)

    and

    the

    mea

    n

    Pre

    scho

    ol t

    each

    ers

    Pri

    mar

    y sc

    hool

    tea

    cher

    sP

    resc

    hool

    par

    ents

    Pri

    mar

    y sc

    hool

    par

    ents

    Way

    s to

    acc

    usto

    m c

    hild

    ren

    to

    the

    prim

    ary

    curr

    icul

    um5

    43

    21

    M5

    43

    21

    M5

    43

    21

    M5

    43

    21

    MT

    otal

    1. E

    ncou

    rage

    chi

    ldre

    n to

    rea

    d40

    4812

    00

    4.12

    2245

    330

    03.

    8934

    4321

    10

    4.11

    2538

    324

    13.

    813.

    892.

    Tea

    ch c

    hild

    ren

    the

    prop

    er

    post

    ure

    for

    hold

    ing

    a pe

    ncil

    4056

    40

    04.

    1922

    3433

    110

    3.67

    1439

    3113

    33.

    4924

    3927

    73

    3.74

    3.72

    3. S

    uppl

    emen

    tary

    exe

    rcis

    es4

    4036

    164

    3.12

    1012

    4717

    142.

    884

    943

    2618

    2.54

    2.63

    4. T

    ests

    and

    dic

    tati

    ons

    416

    4832

    02.

    81

    1

    1635

    2523

    2.48

    514

    3429

    182.

    592.

    59

    5. P

    riva

    te t

    uiti

    on

    1

    1026

    1944

    2.07

    68

    1412

    611.

    881.

    92

    6. A

    ssig

    n le

    ss h

    omew

    ork

    1133

    560

    03.

    56

    3.

    56

    7. G

    ive

    few

    er t

    ests

    and

    di

    ctat

    ions

    022

    780

    03.

    22

    3.

    22

    Not

    e: K

    ey:

    5 =

    alw

    ays,

    4 =

    oft

    en, 3

    = s

    omet

    imes

    , 2 =

    sel

    dom

    , 1 =

    nev

    er.

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  • Early Child Development and Care 977

    Tabl

    e 2.

    Way

    s to

    hel

    p ch

    ildr

    en a

    dapt

    to

    prim

    ary

    scho

    ol l

    ife.

    Per

    cent

    age

    of a

    nsw

    ers

    (%)

    and

    the

    mea

    n

    Pre

    scho

    ol t

    each

    ers

    Pri

    mar

    y sc

    hool

    tea

    cher

    sP

    resc

    hool

    par

    ents

    Pri

    mar

    y sc

    hool

    par

    ents

    Way

    s to

    hel

    p ch

    ildr

    en a

    dapt

    to

    pri

    mar

    y sc

    hool

    lif

    e5

    43

    21

    M5

    43

    21

    M5

    43

    21

    M5

    43

    21

    MT

    otal

    1. E

    xpla

    in a

    nd d

    iscu

    ss

    prim

    ary

    scho

    ol l

    ife

    wit

    h ch

    ildr

    en

    3139

    300

    04.

    0045

    3322

    00

    4.22

    1233

    3517

    33.

    3621

    3235

    102

    3.58

    3.59

    2. T

    each

    chi

    ldre

    n th

    e ru

    les

    and

    regu

    lati

    ons

    of

    prim

    ary

    scho

    ol

    3142

    1512

    03.

    9244

    560

    00

    4.44

    729

    519

    43.

    2625

    4125

    72

    3.79

    3.72

    3. T

    rain

    chi

    ldre

    n to

    be

    inde

    pend

    ent

    6131

    80

    04.

    54

    27

    4429

    00

    3.97

    2340

    295

    33.

    763.

    85

    4. O

    ffer

    mor

    e ca

    re t

    o ne

    wco

    mer

    s

    44

    560

    00

    4.44

    4.44

    5. B

    e le

    ss s

    tric

    t w

    ith

    new

    com

    ers

    2267

    110

    04.

    11

    4.

    11

    Not

    e: K

    ey:

    5 =

    alw

    ays,

    4 =

    oft

    en, 3

    = s

    omet

    imes

    , 2 =

    sel

    dom

    , 1 =

    nev

    er.

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  • 978 W.L. Chan

    pupils, as shown in item 3 in Table 3. The figures also show that most of thepreschools simulate the primary school setting for the children, and the majority(77%) of the preschool teachers found this to be effective.

    The findings of the primary school teachers responses are presented in Table 4.Meetings for primary school teachers, pupils and parents to meet one another beforeschool starts was reported to be the most popular and effective transitional activity. Itwas found that joint activities held together with preschools and letting parents havelesso...

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