04 SES 01 C, Inclusion and Quality in Preschool Education
The Quality of inclusion in Danish Preschools
As research shows there are large local differences in the quality of day care facilities in Denmark (Næsby & Miller, 2017). Also it seems that we in general have little knowledge of whether the desired politically determined targets in an inclusion perspective are being met or not and what the quality is really like nation-wide.
The consequences of living in poverty or in a family with unskilled parents cannot be equalized by the educational system. Not even in Denmark, having a so called well-fare state and equal opportunities for education. A study of mobility comparing Denmark and the US shows as an unexpected side-effect that “while there were major differences in income mobility due to the larger redistribution of income in Denmark, there was no significant difference in education mobility in Denmark and the United States. If your father's unskilled, the probability in both Denmark and the United States that you get higher education is about 20 percent” (Landersø & Heckman, 2016). Creating equality through education has not shown the intended effects. In Denmark and in the Nordic countries the inequality in education seems to be greater and more persistent than the economic inequality and it seems as if not all children are given the same opportunities in life.
We know that the quality of preschool concerning disantvantaged children is crucial (Bauchmüller et al., 2011). High quality preschool makes a difference and prevents children from lower socio-economic groups or with special educational needs from falling behind (Taggart et al., 2015). But even if high quality preschool sustains children’s developmental possibilities and enhances school readiness, low quality preschool cannot reduce the effects of disadvantage and thus inequality in our societies is maintained and preschool fails to reduce the impact of social heritage.
Research questions, objectives and theoretical framework
The aim of the study is to show whether disadvantaged children benefit from high quality preschool in an inclusive perspective or not?
The quantitative data shows good quality on interactions and programme structure (Næsby & Miller, 2017). The Danish preschools hold average quality on language and literacy and low quality on learning activities. These findings align with previous research that shows that Danish pedagogues are supportive and comforting when children are in need, there is a pleasant atmosphere in the environment and staff in general are sensitive towards the children and able to establish good and warm relations (Ministry for Teaching, Children & Equality, 2016). It seems that the preschools meet the quality standards on what is recognized to be the most important single factor concerning children’s possibilities to learn and thrive; namely the quality of the interactions between children and staff (Sheridan, 2007; 2009; Taggart et al., 2015). However these qualities are not used to support children’s learning.
According to the authors of ECERS-3 the instrument measures the quality of the learning environment in a way that shows how high quality is beneficial to all the children (Harms, Clifford & Cryer, 2015). ECERS-3 does not have a special focus on disadvantaged children. Disadvantaged children are included in and gain from high quality preschool along with all the children.
The conceptual frame of the project is based on bio-eco-systems theory (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006). In total this includes quality of orientation, structure, process (measured with ECERS-3) and family and network – with a specific view on children with special needs/ disadvantaged children.
Methods/methodology The ECERS is reliable and valid (Clifford et al., 2010; Gordon et al., 2015) and was chosen for this study because it focuses on children’s perspectives and builds on and aligns with the UNESCO children’s convention. We also sought to explore the degree to which the ECERS-3 aligns with the upcoming adjustments in the Danish national curriculum. Mapping the ECERS-3 to the Danish curriculum allows us to define and evaluate preschool quality in Denmark. Observations using the ECERS-3 were conducted in 85 preschools in four municipalities in Denmark from spring 2017 to spring 2018. Data were collected from two rural municipalities; one municipality that was centred around three larger cities and from one greater city. The municipalities were invited to participate in the research project. In each preschool, one classroom with 16-24 children aged 3-5 was observed one time for three hours. The observations were performed by two certified observers at a time, who were trained based on the author’s recommendations. Administering the observations and scoring (stop-go-scoring) was conducted as proscribed in the ECERS-3 materials (Harms et al., 2015: 14). Hence the qualitative data from observations in high quality preschools could describe best practice in terms of what they do to sustain disadvantaged children’s learning. The collected data is analysed in an inclusive perspective using the so called inclusion matrix (Naesby & Qvortrup, 2014). The presentation will outline the findings; compare the findings with recent research; present an qualitative analysis of the data through the inclusion matrix and discuss the implications in an inclusive perspective.
Expected outcomes The analysis is expected to show in what way high quality preschool sustain disadvantaged children’s learning through inclusive interactions in the learning environment. In the concept of the inclusion matrix inclusion and exclusion have to be observed in terms of physical inclusion, social inclusion and mental inclusion. That is the child being present in the preschool, the presence of learning materials and learning opportunities and possibilities to participate in learning activities and the child’s own experience and feeling of actually being included in the learning environment. Intended to be published as an article.
References Bauchmüller, R.; Gørtz, M. & Rasmussen, A.W. (2011). Long-Run Benefits from Universal High-Quality Pre-Schooling. Copenhagen: AKF. Bronfenbrenner, U. & Morris, P.A. (2006).The Bioecological Model of Human Development. Damon & Lerner (eds.). Theoretical Models of Human Development. Volume one of the Handbook of Child Psychology. New York: Wiley, pp. 793-828. In: Siraj-Blatchford, I. & Mayo, A. (eds) (2012): Early Childhood Education. London: Sage Library of Educational Thought and Practice. Vol 1, s. 201 – 262. Clifford, R.; Reszka, S.S. & Rossbach, H-G. (2010). Reliability and Validity of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale. Chapel Hill: FPG Child Development Institute. Gordon, R.A.; Hofer, K.G.; Fujimoto, K.A.; Risk, N.; Kaestner, R. & Korenman, S. (2015). Identifying High-Quality Preschool Programs: new Evidence on the Validity of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale–Revised (ECERS-R) in Relation to School Readiness Goals. Early Education and Development, vol.26, iss: 8, s.1086 -1110. Harms, T.; Clifford, R. & Cryer, D. (2015). Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, Third Edition. New York: Teachers College Press. Landersø, R. & Heckman, J.J. (2016).The Scandinavian Fantasy: The Sources of Intergenerational Mobility in Denmark and the U.S., The Rockwool Foundation. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Volume 119, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 178–230. DOI: 10.1111/sjoe.12219 Ministeriet for Børn, Undervisning og Ligestilling (2016b). Børns tidlige læring og udvikling. Målgrupperapport. København: UVM. (in Danish) [Children’s learning and development. Ministry for Children, Teaching and Equality]. Næsby, T. & Qvortrup, L. (2014). Inclusion – what it is and how it works? Ritchie, T. (editor). De mange veje mod inklusion. Værløse: Billesø og Baltzer. Næsby, T. & Miller, T. (2017). Examining the quality of Danish preschools using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, Version 3. (UP) Næsby, T. (2017). Studie af alignment mellem ny læreplan og ECERS-3. Aalborg: UCN (UCViden). (In Danish) [Study of alignment between Plan for Learning and ECERS-3]. Sheridan, S. (2007). Dimensions of pedagogical quality in preschool. International Journal of Early Years Education. Vol 15, 2, p. 197-217. Sheridan, S. (2009). Discerning Pedagogical Quality in Preschool. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 53(3), s. 245-261. London: Routledge. Taggart, B; Sylva, K.; Melhuish, E.; Sammons, P. & Siraj, I (2015).The Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education Project, EPPSE 3-16+. How Pre-school influences children and young people’s attainment and developmental outcomes over time. Research Brief. UK gov.: Department for Education.
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