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Does school matter for early childhood education? Assessing cognitive and wider development of children in the Province of Punjab, Pakistan and State of Gujarat, India

Siddiqui, Nadia; Gorard, Stephen; Bulsari, Smruti; Saeed, Saba; Sarfaraz, Hamza; See, Beng Huat; Dixon, Pauline; Pandya, Kiran

Does school matter for early childhood education? Assessing cognitive and wider development of children in the Province of Punjab, Pakistan and State of Gujarat, India Thumbnail


Authors

Smruti Bulsari

Saba Saeed

Hamza Sarfaraz

Pauline Dixon

Kiran Pandya



Abstract

School is a long-term intervention in children’s lives. Children spend many hours in school where the expectation is that the activities will boost their natural growth and academic potential in the most receptive years of development. However, learning a combination of cognitive and non-cognitive skills is also a natural process. Assuming that these only or even mostly occur at school could be a fallacy. How can we “partition” the effect of schooling? Schools also provide a social service in developing economies and emerging modern labour markets where household income needs, social progress and economic well-being demands workforce participation from parents, and sometimes children. State level investment in the school infrastructure builds a compelling case to investigate the efficacy of school as a policy level intervention. The existing evidence on school effect on children’s learning remains unclear because of methodological limitations of clear comparisons of children exposed to school with their counterparts never exposed to school. Moreover, it is not feasible to allocate children to school or not as a long-term intervention. However, as here, a quasi-experiment based on naturally occurring comparisons is possible and ethical. This study looks at the impact of school on children’s learning and general life experiences in early years of childhood (at age 3 to 8 years of age) by drawing a comparison with children who never or briefly attended school. The study is an opportunity to assess the importance and function of school in children’s lives in two largest regions of Punjab, Pakistan and State of Gujarat, India. Not all children attend school in these two regions. The natural settings gave access to a sufficient number of cases for a reasonable calculation of effect sizes that are meaningful for interpretation. We assessed 1,123 children regardless of their school attendance status, on tasks of basic numeracy, literacy, and social-emotional learning using a standardised measure of assessment, implemented at two points in time with a gap of 12 months. The learning attainment comparisons accounted for family socioeconomic status, family size, parental education, access to schools and regional characteristics. The analyses of these factors gave us an indication of differences among children’s learning patterns and how much school intervention in early years can assist children’s cognitive and non-cognitive learning. The study also collected in-depth and narrative data from parents and children which provided context and valuable understanding of the role of school and sometimes the benefits of the absence of school in children’s life.

Citation

Siddiqui, N., Gorard, S., Bulsari, S., Saeed, S., Sarfaraz, H., See, B. H., …Pandya, K. (2022). Does school matter for early childhood education? Assessing cognitive and wider development of children in the Province of Punjab, Pakistan and State of Gujarat, India. Durham University Evidence Centre for Education

Report Type Project Report
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Sep 20, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 20, 2022
Publisher URL https://www.durham.ac.uk/departments/academic/education/research/case-studies/sustainable-education/
Additional Information Department Name: School of Education
University Name: Durham University
Publisher: Durham University Evidence Centre for Education
Type: monograph
Subtype: project_report

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