14 SES 06 B, From Preschool to Primary and beyond: School Transitions in Ireland, Finland and Spain
Compulsory schooling begins at different ages in Europe, from three to seven years of age (European Commission/Eurydice, 2018). This beginning in the compulsory education system is very significant because it coincides with important cognitive changes in the child's development. For the student, it is time to learn basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic, which will serve as the basis for future school success (Castro, Ezquerra, & Argos, 2018; European Commission, 2015; Hall & Lindorff, 2017; Parent et al., 2019; Tamayo, 2014).
At the beginning of compulsory schooling, students begin one of the great educational challenges they must face throughout their school life (Sierra, 2018). It is not only an academic change, but also a social change. Students are expected to have problem-solving, communication and socialization skills (Castro, Ezquerra, & Argos, 2012; Castro et al., 2018; Sierra, 2018; Tamayo, 2014). However, international research carried out in recent years in different educational contexts has shown that the transition to primary school is a delicate moment for children and families. This moment of change requires the positive interaction of students, families and teachers in both stages where everyone is an active part of the process (Castro et al., 2018; Parent et al., 2019; Peters & Roberts, 2015; Rantavuori, 2018; Rimm-kaufman, Pianta, & Cox, 2000; Sierra, 2018; Yi Hung Lau, 2013; Yim, 2018).
Good practices are known by each of the agents of what would help in this transition. First, primary school teachers have more information about children when they enter school, making it easier to individualize instruction and connect students, which becomes better academic and social outcomes for students (Castro et al., 2018; Sierra, 2018). Secondly, it is important to exchange information between schools at both levels, being able to know the progress made in childhood and follow learning progressively. This makes it possible to adapt learning to the previous experiences of children, among others (Argos, Ezquerra, & Castro, 2011; Castro et al., 2018; Rimm-kaufman et al., 2000; Sierra, 2018; Yi Hung Lau, 2013). Thirdly, the changes between childhood education and primary that are not decided by the agents involved and that play an important role in this stage change.
The aim of this research is to describe the differences in the contextual factors of the transition between early childhood and primary education in different European countries. These factors analysed below do not depend on the agents directly involved in the transition, but on the conditions under which it takes place. We analyse the age at which this change from infant to primary takes place, whether compulsory education stars with the beginning of primary education or already in the last years of childhood education, who finances both educational stages and who is responsible for both stages. With this objective we want to know the characteristics of the two environments in which the main educational agents (student, family and teachers) carry out the transition from early childhood education to primary education.
For this study, the European countries participating in the sample have been selected as those with the greatest extension of Continental Europe (Spain, France, Italy and Germany), with the selection of Portugal to complete the Iberian Peninsula. The Nordic countries were also added due to their educational prestige (Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway). The United Kingdom has not been considered because of the diversity of the constituent countries that make up the State. In this way, a total of ten European countries are analysed: Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. The methodology followed in this study for the analysis of the ten countries has been a documentary analysis. The search for information to be analysed was carried out using the European Commission's web pages in its Eurydice portal, where information provided by the governments of each European country can be found. It is accessible in English and in the country's own language. It also has links to country regulations and to the websites of ministries of education for more information. Information has been collected for the last year of early childhood education and the first year of primary education. The information collected has been classified into six categories: Age of change from Infant Education to Primary Education Moment when compulsory education begins Financing of the Early Childhood Education stage Financing of the Primary Education stage Responsible Educational Administration Autonomy of the centres The information was compared between stages within the same country and among the ten countries analyzed.
Firstly, in the EU there is no single organisational model in education. Compulsory schooling is between five and seven years, although most countries start with six years (n=8). On the other hand, some countries with the beginning of primary education begin compulsory education (n=7), while, in the case of most Nordic countries, compulsory education begins in the last year of childhood education. This situation guarantees greater continuity of the stage. Secondly, on financing, the last year of pre-school education is free in all countries except Denmark (school decision), Germany and Norway. Primary education is free in the EU. Thirdly, the responsible educational administration is shared between the general administration and regional or local authorities. Early childhood education in many cases depends on welfare and care ministries. Even so, the last years of childhood education are already under the responsibility of the relevant Ministry of Education. Fourthly, in relation to school autonomy, the Nordic countries have a high degree of autonomy in schools and local authorities, forming committees of teachers, students and families, who are an active part of the organisation. The role of these committees is different in each country. In short, only the Nordic countries contemplate within this compulsory stage the last year of early childhood education, and this is a guarantee of continuity. It is also favorable that the transition years are free in almost the whole of the EU. In addition, the last year of childhood education and the first year of primary school belong to the same ministry, which should guarantee greater continuity. In the case of centre autonomy, the Nordic countries have greater autonomy than southern Europe, allowing them to adapt to the needs of the change from childhood education to primary, which in some cases these countries already form part of compulsory education.
Argos, J., Ezquerra, M. P., & Castro, A. (2011). Escuchando la voz de la infancia en los procesos de cambio e investigación educativos. Aproximación al estudio de las transiciones entre las etapas de educación infantil y educación primaria. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación, 54(5), 1–18. Retrieved from https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=3698302 Castro, A., Ezquerra, P., & Argos, J. (2012). La transición entre la Escuela de Educación Infantil y la de Educación Primaria: perspectiva de niños, familias y profesorado. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 253, 537–552. Retrieved from http://nebulosa.icesi.edu.co:2516/ehost/detail/detail?vid=20&sid=23abee23-5386-49af-8ff6-1960ad9841ce%40sessionmgr4009&hid=4107&bdata=Jmxhbmc9ZXMmc2l0ZT1laG9zdC1saXZl#AN=82404744&db=a9h Castro, A., Ezquerra, P., & Argos, J. (2018). Deepening the transition between childhood education and primary education: the perspective of families and teachers. Teoría de La Educación, 30(1), 217–240. doi:10.14201/teoredu301217240 PROFUNDIZANDO European Commision (2018). Eurydice. Retrieved from: https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/national-description_es European Commission/Eurydice. (2018). Compulsory Education in Europe. EURYDICE-Facts and Figures (Vol. 20). Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi:10.2797/20126 Hall, J., & Lindorff, A. (2017). Children’s Transition to School: Relationships between Preschool Attendance, Cortisol Patterns, and Effortful Control. Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 34(1), 1–18. doi:10.1017/edp.2017.3 Parent, S., Lupien, S., Herba, C. M., Dupéré, V., Gunnar, M. R., & Séguin, J. R. (2019). Children’s cortisol response to the transition from preschool to formal schooling: A review. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 99, 196–205. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.09.013 Peters, S., & Roberts, J. (2015). Transitions from early childhood education to primary school: An interview with Sally Peters. Set: Research Information for Teachers, 2, 3–8. doi:10.18296/set.0012 Rantavuori, L. (2018). The problem-solving process as part of professionals’ boundary work in preschool to school transition. International Journal of Early Years Education, 26(4), 422–435. doi:10.1080/09669760.2018.1458600 Rimm-kaufman, S. E., Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. J. (2000). Teachers ’ Judgments of Problems in the Transition to Kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15(2), 147–166. Sierra, S. (2018). Investigaciones sobre la Transición a Educación Primaria : la mirada infantil a examen. Revista de Investigación Educativa, 16(2), 136–152. Tamayo, S. (2014). La transición entre etapas educativas: de Educación Infantil a Educación Primaria. Participación Educativa. Revista Del Consejo Escolar Del Estado., 3(5), 131–137. Yi Hung Lau, E. (2013). Chinese parents’ perceptions and practices of parental involvement during school transition. Early Child Development and Care, 184(3), 403–415. doi:10.1080/03004430.2013.792258 Yim, E. P.-Y. (2018). Supporting the kindergarten–primary school transition in Hong Kong: reform in a teacher training programme. International Journal of Early Years Education, 26(4), 436–449. doi:10.1080/09669760.2017.1316243
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