copy the linklink copied!2. Interactions between children, staff and parents/guardians in early childhood education and care centres

Building on a rich set of information on practices used by staff in early childhood education and care centres, this chapter examines the types of interactions between staff and children and staff and parents, as well as the differences across countries in the use of these practices. It also discusses how activities are organised by groups of children, in terms of the size of the group, the number of staff and the composition of the group. The chapter ends with a section on how staff work with a diversity of children and investigates how the workforce adapts their practices to children with different backgrounds and needs.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

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Key messages
  • Among the range of practices used by staff with children at the centre level, around 70% of staff report wide use of practices facilitating children’s socio-emotional development (such as talking with children about feelings and encouraging children to help each other) or practices facilitating children’s language and literacy development (such as encouraging children to talk to each other and singing songs or rhymes). Specific practices emphasising literacy and numeracy (such as playing with letters or playing number games) are used to a lesser extent. For instance, in centres for pre-primary education in Iceland, Japan, and Norway, there is a large gap between the percentages of staff who report that encouraging children to talk to each other and playing number games apply “a lot” in their centre. In Chile, Korea and Turkey, this gap is smaller, suggesting a more comprehensive approach to children’s learning, development and well-being.

  • Practices that engage families and guardians in early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres are well established. Exchanging information with parents regarding daily activities and children’s development, and well-being is even more common in centres for children under age 3 than in centres for older children. Smaller percentages of staff report encouraging parents to play and carry out learning activities at home with their children. Korea appears to combine a large use of practices to inform parents and also to engage them in children’s development, while practices to engage parents could be further developed in Israel, for both pre-primary centres and centres for children under age 3.

  • In many countries, the ability to co-operate easily with others is at the top of the list of skills and abilities that ECEC staff regard as important for young children to develop. Also among the skills staff consider “of high importance” are oral language skills, the ability to inquire and explore based on children’s own curiosity and the ability to think creatively. Among skills staff consider as of lesser importance are the foundational cognitive skills valued in schools and further education, such as reading, writing, numeracy and science. Associations between beliefs in a particular skill (socio-emotional, literacy or numeracy) and practices to develop this skill are strong in all countries.

  • In pre-primary education centres, the size of the target group (defined as the first group of children staff were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey) varies from 15 children on average in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany, Iceland, Korea, Norway and Turkey to more than 20 in Chile, Israel and Japan. In centres for younger children, the size of the target group is slightly smaller. There are substantial variations within countries. Staff working with larger groups report more behavioural support practices (such as asking children to quieten down) and, to some extent, adapt their practices to children’s needs (such as explaining how a new activity relates to children’s lives).

  • In several participating countries, large percentages of staff work with groups that include a diversity of children, such as children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes or children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre. Staff report that they adapt their practices to the composition of the group of children. Large percentages of staff and leaders report that it is important to learn about other cultures and that is it common to use books featuring a variety of cultural groups. However, concrete practices, such as getting children to sometimes play with toys from minority cultures, are less widespread in almost all countries, but particularly in Germany, Japan and Norway.

copy the linklink copied!Introduction

Children’s daily experiences with adults and other children matter a lot for their development and well-being. During their first five years, children learn at a faster rate than at any other time in their lives, developing cognitive, social and emotional skills that are fundamental to their achievements throughout childhood and as adults (Schleicher, 2019[1]).

For most children, ECEC provides the first experience of life in a group away from their parents and contributes to children’s joy in learning. Little is known about what is happening in these playrooms and classrooms, especially in terms of comparison across countries. The Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) asks the ECEC workforce a range of questions about the practices they use to enhance children’s learning, development and well-being. The Survey also questions the workforce about their beliefs on the skills and abilities that children should develop for the future and on the importance of adopting approaches aiming to include all children, regardless of their culture and socio-economic background. Those beliefs can shape the practices used by staff with all children and, in turn, children’s development and well-being.

This chapter focuses on children and on what is happening at the centre level in general and in playrooms and classrooms more specifically. It looks at the elements that are closest to children:

  • how staff interact with children and their parents

  • how daily activities are organised by groups (size of the group, number of staff and composition of the group)

  • how this organisation of work with a group and the composition of the group can be linked to the practices used.

TALIS Starting Strong asks staff to report on different types of situations and also asks different types of staff, as well as leaders, to report on the same situations. These different points of view help to gain a better sense of what is happening in the playroom or classroom, although they cannot reflect children’s own experience of life in the ECEC centre.

TALIS Starting Strong builds on a vast field of research to capture information on the practices used in ECEC centres that are known to contribute to the quality of the interactions between children, staff and parents (known as process quality) and to children’s development. It also builds on the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), with a specific focus on young children (OECD, 2019[2]).

This chapter explains the construction of indicators capturing the quality of these interactions in several dimensions that can be used to examine the link between the quality of the interactions and other determinants. These indicators are discussed and used in this chapter and throughout this publication.

After summarising the insights from research and policy evidence, the chapter starts by discussing the workforce’s practices with children and parents to derive a framework for analysing process quality with a number of indicators. It then discusses how staff beliefs about skills and abilities that will prepare children for the future shape those practices and describes how activities with a group of children are organised in terms of number of staff and number of children. It further investigates relationships between the number of children in a group and practices used by staff with children. It ends with a section on staff working with a diversity of children and investigates how the workforce adapts their practices to children with different backgrounds and needs.

copy the linklink copied!Insights from research and policy evidence

A growing body of research suggests that the magnitude of the benefits to children of attending ECEC depends on the level of quality of services and that low-quality ECEC can be associated with no benefits or even with detrimental effects on children’s development and learning (Britto, Yoshikawa and Boller, 2011[3]; Howes et al., 2008[4]). However, even defining quality in ECEC remains a challenge for researchers and policy makers seeking to enhance quality (La Paro et al., 2012[5]).

Definitions of the quality of ECEC often distinguish between two aspects: structural quality and process quality (Pianta et al., 2005[6]; Slot et al., 2017[7]; Thomason and La Paro, 2009[8]; Howes et al., 2008[4]). Structural aspects of quality refer to characteristics of the ECEC environment, such as the number of children per staff member, group size, workforce education and training, staff turnover and programme monitoring. Process quality comprises children’s interactions in ECEC settings with other children, staff/teachers, space and materials, their families and the wider community.

ECEC settings are considered of high quality if they encourage children in their everyday experience to engage in a variety of activities with staff and other children (peer interactions) that foster their learning, development and well-being. These activities involve social, emotional, physical and instructional aspects, while building on play and routines (Anders, 2015[9]; Barros et al., 2016[10]; Ghazvini and Mullis, 2010[11]; Howes et al., 2008[4]; Slot et al., 2015[12]).

There is a growing consensus that process quality is closely related to children’s development and learning (Pianta, Downer and Hamre, 2016[13]). The evidence shows that, with more positive staff-child interactions or staff providing higher quality or more exposure to developmental and educational activities, children have higher levels of emerging literacy and numeracy skills in ECEC settings, as well as better behavioural and social skills (OECD, 2018[14]).

Structural aspects of quality can affect the interactions between staff and children, although they do not guarantee the quality of these interactions. In particular, several studies indicate that smaller group sizes and child-staff ratios support staff-child interactions, both in centres for children aged 3-5 and in centres for children under age 3 (Slot, 2018[15]). Nevertheless, some studies showed mixed findings, particularly for overall group size (Pianta et al., 2005[16]).

There is empirical evidence that the beliefs of ECEC staff on what is important for children are associated with their pedagogical practices (Charlesworth et al., 1991, Pianta et al., 2005, Stipek and Byler, 1997, Stipek et al., 2001). For instance, ECEC staff beliefs regarding the value of direct instruction with young children (a teacher-directed method consisting of using explicit techniques to teach a specific skill) are likely to influence the extent to which they use direct instruction (Sim et al., 2019[17]). Some studies have found that, even after adjusting for staff experience or training and structural factors (such as staff-child ratio), ECEC staff beliefs about children were the factor most related to observed pedagogical quality (Pianta et al., 2005[6]). ECEC staff beliefs direct and constrain their pedagogical practices, which subsequently shape children’s academic and social environments.

There is no single measure or definition of process quality. To date, the vast majority of research studies focus on one aspect of process quality, the quality of staff-child interactions. Staff-child interactions are generally described as including several dimensions, such as teachers’ sensitivity to individual needs, support for positive behaviour (including physical and emotional care and support), stimulation of language and cognitive development (including through instructional and pedagogical support) (Hamre et al., 2014[18]; Pianta, La Paro and Hamre, 2008[19]). Some other less studied areas also seem important for the quality of the interactions between children and staff. They include the different ways in which individual children experience the same classroom, the extent to which curricula and instructional activities can shape interactions and teachers’ ability to develop their skills when interacting with children (Pianta, Downer and Hamre, 2016[13]).

ECEC learning and well-being environments do not operate in isolation. Parental partnership is critical in enhancing the knowledge of ECEC staff about the children they work with. Several examples of effective ECEC services that promote parental engagement (such as Head Start, the Perry Preschool and the Chicago Parent Centers in the United States) offer evidence that parental engagement matters (Bennett, 2008[20]). Research has shown that parental engagement, especially when it ensures high-quality learning for children at home and good communication with ECEC staff, is strongly associated with children’s later academic success, socio-emotional development and adaptation in society (OECD, 2011[21]; Sylva et al., 2004[22]).

Aspects of the interactions between staff and parents/guardians or the community are also of paramount importance for the quality of ECEC provided to children and families of diverse cultural or socio-economic backgrounds or to dual/second-language learners. ECEC staff and leadership may have clear strategies and goals for creating a welcoming atmosphere for parents and children, but they may fail to engage parents and guardians of children from ethnic minorities (Crozier and Davies, 2007[23]).

Involving and empowering parents or guardians as caregivers and educators of their children may require collaboration with other stakeholders, such as family support, social work and health services (Sim et al., 2019[17]). Community engagement can help connect families and ECEC services, as well as other services for children. Different services, such as formal ECEC services, daycare, health services, and other child services, can work together to create a continuum of services that is reassuring for parents and can meet the needs of young children (OECD, 2011[21]). Many countries face challenges in promoting co-operation across different services for children and their families and proposing a holistic and continuous approach to child development.

TALIS Starting Strong collects information about practices and interactions at ECEC settings along four major dimensions (Sim et al., 2019[17]) (Figure 2.1):

  • practices facilitating children’s language, literacy and numeracy development

  • practices facilitating children’s socio-emotional development

  • practices facilitating group organisation and individual support

  • practices facilitating engagement of parents or guardians in the development and well-being of their children and their participation in the activities of the centre.

These practices contribute to the quality of the interactions between staff and children and staff and parents, as well as among children, but they can also indirectly affect parents’ interactions with children. All of these interactions are important for children’s development.

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Figure 2.1. Framework for the analysis of practices affecting children’s learning, development and well-being in TALIS Starting Strong
Figure 2.1. Framework for the analysis of practices affecting children’s learning, development and well-being in TALIS Starting Strong

copy the linklink copied!Supporting children’s learning, development and well-being through practices

In their daily work with children, staff use many practices to support children’s development. TALIS Starting Strong builds on the concept that ECEC is effective when staff use practices that help all children to learn and develop to their full potential along multiple dimensions, regardless of their socio-economic background, native language and other specific needs. More data would be needed, in particular on children, to fully understand the type of combinations of practices or the specific practices that best foster children’s learning, development and well-being. TALIS Starting Strong has developed a rich set of indicators to learn about the practices used by staff with children. These indicators build on the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey of teachers and leaders in primary and secondary education, and on a conceptual framework with a focus on practices specifically used with young children (ISCED level 0) (Sim et al., 2019[17]).

The quality of the interactions between children and staff is difficult to measure. There are several advantages to learning about staff practices through a staff survey. This method makes it possible to gather information on a range of behaviours that could be difficult to capture through observation in a single day. Staff perceptions of their behaviours are crucial for understanding where interventions could be well received or most needed. However, this type of self-reporting also involves a number of challenges resulting from the biases in how people tend to respond to surveys (Sim et al., 2019[17]).

Those biases are of two types. First, individuals tend to answer in a manner that will be viewed favourably by others (known as social desirability bias). For instance, when teachers self-report their practices, several studies have found that teachers tend to report practices they believe are high quality, rather than what they actually do in the classroom (Muijs, 2006[24]). Second, individuals interpret and judge phenomena by standards inherent to their own culture (known as cultural bias) (He and Van de Vijver, 2013[25]).

To limit social desirability and cultural biases, TALIS Starting Strong uses several approaches to learn about the interactions between staff and children:

  • The Survey inquires about the extent to which respondents consider that each practice is used by staff in their centre, asking respondents to mark one choice among four options: “not at all”, “very little”, “to some extent” or “a lot”. Asking staff questions about practices that are used in the centre, rather than practices that they are using themselves, can limit social desirability bias, but it can elicit less information and variation on individual practices used by staff.

  • The Survey also inquires about the frequency with which staff use each practice with the first group of children they were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey (known, for the purposes of the Survey, as the target group). Respondents are asked to mark one choice among four options: “never or almost never”, “occasionally”, “frequently” or “always or almost always”. Taking a specific example and asking staff to report on a specific situation they have experienced can also reduce social desirability bias, but it can elicit information that is not necessarily representative of the way individual staff usually work with children.

  • Finally, the Survey inquires about what staff would do in concrete daily work situations. These questions present respondents with real-life professional contexts and possible ways to address a specific situation, asking them to indicate how likely they would be to use each response in that particular situation. By asking respondents what they would actually do, rather than asking about their agreement with a certain way of acting, these questions can limit both cultural and social desirability biases. However, these questions cover a limited range of practices.

To further limit cultural bias, this publication uses two approaches. When doing a cross-country comparison of the percentage of staff who report on a practice, it generally aggregates the top two response options (e.g. “to some extent” and “a lot”; “frequently” and “always or almost always”; or “would probably do” and “would definitely do”). Another approach used consists of looking at how, on average, staff in a country rank the importance of a practice compared to other practices, rather than their level of agreement with practices.

Effective practices

As there is a consensus that the quality of the interactions between staff and children is a multidimensional concept, TALIS Starting Strong asks about a range of practices that can foster children’s learning, development and well-being in a holistic way (Sim et al., 2019[17]). Indicators of practices used by staff at the centre level (according to respondents) cover the following categories: language development; literacy development; numeracy development; play; emotional development; and prosocial behaviour (behaviour which is positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship). These practices aim to foster children’s development in two major and central dimensions: 1) language, literacy and numeracy development (for the first three categories); and 2) socio-emotional development (for the three last categories).

Indicators of practices used by staff with the target group of children to facilitate group organisation and enable individual support fall under two categories: adaptive practices and behavioural support. These practices focus on strategies and routines used with a group of children to generally foster children’s learning, development and well-being, such as by adapting practices to children’s needs or helping children with their behaviour to ensure they can benefit from other activities.

Indicators of practices used by staff at the centre level give information on a range of practices used in their centre (according to staff), but not necessarily by respondents themselves. Indicators of practices used by staff with the target group of children focus on a limited number of strategies used by staff themselves in a concrete situation.

The dimensions of quality of the interactions between staff and children are interrelated, and the boundaries between those dimensions are not always clear-cut. Practices that provide emotional support to children also help children learn and reduce stress associated with the time they spend in childcare settings (Sim et al., 2019[17]). In parallel, back-and-forth exchanges between staff and children in literacy and numeracy, along with sharing interesting and creative hands-on materials, may increase children’s engagement with staff, facilitate behavioural and emotional regulation and improve children’s well-being (Kluczniok et al., 2014[26]; Shuey and Kankaraš, 2018[27]).

On average in countries participating in the survey, staff in pre-primary education centres report that practices facilitating socio-emotional development are used to a large extent (Figure 2.2). More than 70% of staff report that practices such as encouraging children to help each other and talking with children about feelings are used “a lot” in the centre. A smaller share of staff report that practices more specific to the way play is organised (such as allowing children to take the lead when playing, and joining in if invited) are used “a lot”.

Most of the staff in pre-primary education centres also report that most of the practices facilitating children’s language and literacy development apply “a lot” in their centres. Practices that are most broadly mentioned at the centre level as used “a lot” are singing songs or rhymes with the children and encouraging children to talk to each other. A majority of staff also report using books “a lot”. In contrast, a smaller share of staff indicate singing songs about numbers “a lot” or, when reading books, connecting the stories to children’s experience. Specific practices putting stronger emphasis on literacy and numeracy (e.g. playing number games or playing with letters) tend to be less broadly used.

When reporting on practices used with the target group of children, more than 60% of staff report that they “always or almost always” calm children and help them to follow the rules (Figure 2.3). On average, more than 40% of the staff in pre-primary education centres report that they “always or almost always” present activities that extend children’s abilities or give different activities to suit different children’s level of development.

A smaller proportion of staff report that they “always or almost always” use practices such as adapting activities to differences in children’s cultural background or explaining how a new activity relates to children’s to lives. This may reflect an intention to treat all children in the same way or suggest a need for staff to be better prepared to work with a diversity of children (see Chapter 3).

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Figure 2.2. Practices facilitating language, literacy, numeracy and socio-emotional development
Percentage of pre-primary education (ISCED 02) staff indicating that the following practices apply “a lot” to staff in the centre, average of participating countries
Figure 2.2. Practices facilitating language, literacy, numeracy and socio-emotional development

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010185

Countries can influence the use and quality of practices by staff by establishing guidelines or curriculum frameworks that encourage high-quality practices, raising the awareness of the multiple aspects of children’s learning, development and well-being, and providing help to implement those practices. National or sub-national authorities in charge of ECEC responded to a questionnaire on policies to ensure high quality in ECEC. Their answers shed light on how governments attempt to shape practices through the curriculum framework. In a majority of countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong and completing this policy questionnaire, the curriculum framework provides guidance on the holistic development, learning and well-being goals for children, as well as guidance to teachers on implementation of the curriculum (Figure 2.4). In a smaller number of participating countries, the curriculum provides guidance on the skills, knowledge, competencies or attitudes to be fostered or on the specific material to be used. This finding is in line with staff reporting in TALIS Starting Strong that they less broadly use practices putting stronger emphasis on literacy and numeracy.

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Figure 2.3. Practices for group organisation and individual support to children
Percentage of pre-primary education (ISCED 02) staff indicating that they “always or almost always” use the following practices when working with the target group of children, average of participating countries
Figure 2.3. Practices for group organisation and individual support to children

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010204

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Figure 2.4. Stated goals in the curriculum framework
Percentage of countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong for which each statement applies, pre-primary education
Figure 2.4. Stated goals in the curriculum framework

Note: Each curriculum framework receives a score of 1 if the statement applies and of 0 if the statement does not apply. For countries with several curriculum frameworks, the information is averaged at the country level. For Germany, the information covers the following regions: Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, and North Rhine Westphalia. The figure shows the average score across the nine countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong.

Source: OECD (2019[28]), “OECD Network on Early Childhood Education and Care: Quality beyond Regulations survey”, internal document, OECD, Paris.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010223

Similarities and differences in practices used by staff of different countries

Among the practices to support literacy and numeracy development and language stimulation, in all countries except Japan, singing songs or rhymes with the children is the first or second practice for which the largest shares of staff report that the practice applies “a lot” to the centre at the pre-primary education level (Table 2.1). For other practices, there are significant differences between countries. Helping children to use numbers or to count is a top practice in Chile and Israel and staff positioning themselves at the children’s height when talking or listening appears among the top practices in Japan and Korea. In centres for children under age 3, practices for which the largest shares of staff report that the practice applies “a lot” to the centre are the same in the four participating countries: singing songs or rhymes with the children and using books/picture books with children.

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Table 2.1. Top three practices to support literacy, numeracy and language development
Among the practices to support literacy, numeracy and language development, the three practices for which the largest percentage of staff report that the practice applies “a lot” to the ECEC centre

 

 

 

Encourage children to talk to each other

Position themselves at the children's height when talking or listening

Rephrase or recite statements to make sure children have been understood

Model the correct word rather than correcting the child directly

Use books/ picture books with children

Sing songs or rhymes with the children

Help children to use numbers or to count

Refer to groups of objects by the size of the group

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

4

11

5

9

3

2

1

6

Germany*

2

5

9

4

3

1

6

8

Iceland

3

12

8

5

2

1

4

13

Israel

2

6

13

9

12

1

3

5

Japan

3

1

2

7

4

5

9

14

Korea

6

2

5

9

3

1

4

13

Norway

2

5

7

3

4

1

6

12

Turkey

6

5

11

13

2

1

9

3

Denmark**

1

5

6

3

4

2

8

10

Centres for children under age 3

Germany*

3

5

6

4

2

1

8

7

Israel

4

3

7

6

2

1

9

5

Norway

4

6

7

3

2

1

5

8

Denmark**

4

5

6

3

2

1

7

11

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.

Note: A total of 16 practices are considered for the ranking for pre-primary-education centres and 14 practices for centres for children under age 3, corresponding to questions 31, 32 and 33 of the staff TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.1).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010565

Among the practices to support emotional development and prosocial behaviour and play, which broadly aim to facilitate socio-emotional development, staff of most countries agree on the top practices that apply to their centres (Table 2.2). At the pre-primary education level, in all countries except Japan, encouraging children to help each other is the practice for which the largest share of staff report that it applies “a lot”. There is also broad agreement on the other top practices. In centres for children under age 3, similar practices are ranked at the top, with hugging children also being reported as a top practice in three participating countries.

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Table 2.2. Top three practices to support socio-emotional development
Among the practices to support prosocial behaviour, emotional development and play, the three practices for which the largest percentage of staff report that the practice applies “a lot” to the ECEC centre

Show enjoyment when joining the children's play

Encourage sharing amongst children

Encourage children to help each other

Encourage children if they comfort each other

Hug the children

Talk with children about feelings

Help children to talk about what makes them happy

Help children to talk about what makes them sad

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

8

2

1

9

6

4

3

5

Germany*

8

4

1

2

6

3

9

7

Iceland

11

5

1

2

3

6

4

7

Israel

8

2

1

3

6

5

4

7

Japan

1

9

6

11

4

2

5

3

Korea

9

8

3

4

1

2

7

5

Norway

10

3

1

2

6

4

5

7

Turkey

5

2

1

6

12

4

3

8

Denmark**

6

7

1

8

5

2

4

3

Centres for children under age 3

Germany*

5

6

1

2

3

4

8

7

Israel

7

4

3

2

1

6

5

9

Norway

8

3

2

1

4

5

6

7

Denmark**

4

7

1

8

2

3

6

5

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.

Note: A total of 12 practices are considered for the ranking for pre-primary-education centres and 10 practices for centres for children under age 3, corresponding to questions 29 and 30 of the staff TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.1).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010584

To organise activities with the target group of children, among the practices for behavioural support, the two top practices in all countries and in both pre-primary education centres and centres for children under age 3 are calming children and helping them to follow the rules (Table 2.3). Differences across countries appear for the third practice most broadly reported as used “always or almost always” by staff in their work with the target group of children. In terms of adaptive practices to ensure individual support for learning and development, the top practice in several countries is presenting activities that extend children’s abilities, which does not necessarily entail a lot of individualisation of practices to children’s needs (Table 2.4). However, in all countries except Turkey, giving different activities to suit different children’s levels of development or interest is among the top three adaptive practices. This result holds for both pre-primary education centres and centres for children under age 3.

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Table 2.3. Top three practices for behavioural support
Among the behavioural practices, the three practices for which the largest percentage of staff report that they have “always or almost always” used the practice in their work with the target group

I help children to follow the rules

I calm children who are upset

When the activities begin, I ask children to quieten down

I address children's disruptive behaviour that slows down other children's learning1

I help children understand the consequences if they do not follow the rules

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

2

1

3

5

4

Germany*

2

1

4

3

5

Iceland

2

1

5

3

4

Israel

1

2

5

4

3

Japan

2

1

3

5

4

Korea

1

2

5

4

3

Norway

2

1

5

3

4

Turkey

1

2

5

4

3

Denmark**

2

1

4

3

5

Centres for children under age 3

Germany*

2

1

3

6

4

Israel

2

1

3

6

5

Norway

2

1

5

3

4

Denmark**

2

1

3

6

5

1. For staff in centres for children under age 3, the item is "I have to cope with children's disruptive behaviour that interferes with other children's experiences".

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.

Note: A total of five practices are considered for the ranking for pre-primary-education centres and for centres for children under age 3, corresponding to questions 41 g) to 41 k) of the staff TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.2).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010603

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Table 2.4. Top three adaptive practices
Among adaptive practices, the three practices for which the largest percentage of staff report that they have “always or almost always” used the practice in their work with the target group

I set daily goals for the children

I explain how a new activity relates to children's lives

I give different activities to suit different children's interests

I give different activities to suit different children's level of development

I present activities that extend children's abilities

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

2

5

3

4

1

Germany*

4

5

3

2

1

Iceland

6

4

3

2

1

Israel

4

5

3

2

1

Japan

3

5

1

2

4

Korea

3

5

1

2

4

Norway

4

6

1

2

3

Turkey

2

3

5

4

1

Denmark**

4

5

3

2

1

Centres for children under age 3

Germany*

4

5

3

2

1

Israel

4

5

3

2

1

Norway

4

6

1

2

3

Denmark**

4

6

3

1

2

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.

Note: A total of six practices are considered for the ranking for pre-primary-education centres and for centres for children under age 3, corresponding to questions 41 a) to 41 f) of the staff TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.2).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010622

Overall, when countries are compared according to the top three practices rather than by the percentages of the reports, staff appear to rank practices in the same way, and in the end countries’ answers show some similarities. A common feature across countries is that larger percentages of staff report broad use of several practices facilitating socio-emotional development rather than of several practices supporting literacy and numeracy development. However, there are variations across countries in this pattern. Considering specifically the gap between the percentages of staff in centres for pre-primary education indicating that “encourage children to talk to each other” and “play number games” apply “a lot”, staff in Iceland, Japan and Norway appear to focus on some practices rather than others, while this is less the case in Chile, Korea and Turkey (Figure 2.5).

To learn more about interactions between staff and children, TALIS Starting Strong includes questions on practices used by staff to address concrete daily work situations. These questions allow respondents to answer with more than one suggestion because, in a real-life professional context, staff may use multiple strategies to approach a concrete situation. In particular, the following two situations are considered that relate to different aspects of quality:

  • Supporting prosocial behaviour: Two 3-year-old children are independently playing with building blocks. Child A has taken almost all the building blocks and is building things. Child B is shy, looks a bit sad and is struggling with his/her constructions. What would you do?

  • Supporting child-directed play: Suppose that five 3-year-old children are playing with different toys of their choosing. In an ideal situation, where you could choose what to do during this time, what would you do?

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Figure 2.5. Gap in the use of practices facilitating numeracy and socio-emotional development
Percentage of staff indicating that the practice applies “a lot” to staff in the centre
Figure 2.5. Gap in the use of practices facilitating numeracy and socio-emotional development

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked according to the percentages of staff indicating that the two following practices apply “a lot” to staff in the centre “Encourage children to talk to each other” and “Play number games”.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.1).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010242

Among the practices to support prosocial behaviour, staff of most countries agree on the two practices that they “would probably do” or “would definitely do” in the concrete situation (Table 2.5). At the pre-primary education level, in all countries except Japan and Korea, a combination of encouraging the children to share and encouraging them to build something together are the practices which the largest share of staff report they would use. There is also broad agreement that focusing only on solutions that do not promote interaction between the children, for example by dividing the toys or addressing the emotional needs of only one child, would not be the chosen practices to address this situation. In centres for children under age 3, similar practices are ranked at the top. This finding points to a similar approach to practices in countries, as observed from questions on practices used by staff at the centre level or by staff with the target group of children.

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Table 2.5. Top three practices used by staff in a concrete daily work situation to support prosocial behaviour
Among the practices to support prosocial behaviour, the three practices for which the largest percentage of staff report that they “would probably do this” or “would definitely do this” in a concrete situation

Divide blocks in equal piles

Help child B

Encourage children to build together

Talk to child A about Bs feelings

Encourage A to share with B

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

 

 

 

 

 

Chile

 

2

3

1

Germany*

 

1

3

2

Iceland

 

2

3

1

Israel

 

1

3

2

Japan

 

3

1

2

Korea

 

3

2

1

Norway

 

2

3

1

Turkey

 

1

3

2

Denmark**

 

1

3

2

Centres for children under age 3

Germany*

 

2

3

1

Israel

 

2

3

1

Norway

 

2

3

1

Denmark**

 

1

3

2

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the Survey may result in biases in the rank order reported.

Note: The work situation is the following: “Two 3-year-old children are independently playing with building blocks. Child A has taken almost all the building blocks and is building things. Child B is shy, looks a bit sad and is struggling with his/her constructions. What would you do?”. A total of five practices were included in the ranking for pre-primary education centres and centres for children under age 3, corresponding to question 25 of the staff TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010641

Among the practices to support child-directed play, the pattern of suggestions from staff is not fully clear, as staff are more likely to choose many complementary options to address this situation (Table 2.6). These complementary options vary along the continuum, from not interfering when children play to participating in the play while still allowing the children to take the lead. For example, at the pre-primary education level in Chile, Israel, Korea and Turkey, large percentages of staff choose all options for approaching this specific situation. In contrast, in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany and Iceland, large percentages of ECEC staff would choose not to interfere or just to ask questions and provide suggestions. In centres for children under age 3, staff in most countries agree that practices of minimal interference in children’s play would be their choice for this particular situation.

These findings show that most staff consider that they themselves do use most of these practices or that these practices are used “a lot” at the centre level. However, this corresponds to the staff’s view. While staff are busy all day interacting with children, the child’s perspective can be very different from the staff’s perspective and from the group average. Children’s interactions with staff on an individual basis or as part of small group can vary in quality throughout the day (Pianta, Downer and Hamre, 2016[13]). Countries can establish guidelines or curriculum frameworks that encourage practices to foster interaction between staff and children and to put children at the centre of such interactions (Box 2.1).

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Table 2.6. Top three practices used by staff in a concrete daily work situation to support child-directed play
Among the practices to support child-directed play, the three practices for which the largest percentage of staff report that they “would probably do this” or “would definitely do this” in a concrete situation

Play with them following their lead

Let them play by themselves

Contribute by asking questions

Encourage them to play together

Contribute by providing new ideas

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

3

1

2

Germany*

1

3

2

Iceland

1

2

3

Israel

3

1

2

Japan

1

2

3

Korea

2

3

1

Norway

2

3

1

Turkey

2

1

3

Denmark**

1

2

3

Centres for children under age 3

Germany*

3

1

2

Israel

3

1

2

Norway

1

3

2

Denmark**

3

2

1

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the Survey may result in biases in the rank order reported.

Note: The work situation is the following: “Suppose that five 3-year-old children are playing with different toys of their choosing. In an ideal situation where you could choose what to do during this time, what would you do?”. A total of five practices were included in the ranking for pre-primary education centres and centres for children under age 3, corresponding to question 26 of the staff TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010660

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Box 2.1. Establishing guidelines for activities and practices through curriculum frameworks

ECEC activities and practices or pedagogy can be shaped by a country’s curriculum framework. A high-quality curriculum would contain a balanced and planned provision of different types of activities, aiming to support the development of different sets of skills (e.g. cognitive and socio-emotional skills) (Pianta et al., 2005[6]; Sim et al., 2019[17]; Sylva et al., 2004[22]). Recent studies have shown that curriculum quality is related to child outcomes in the short term (Leseman et al., 2017[29]) and later in life (Ansari and Purtell, 2018[30]).

Germany

In Germany, where ECEC systems are decentralised, a national framework is in place, the Common Framework of the Länder for Early Education in ECEC Centres (Gemeinsamer Rahmen der Länder für die frühe Bildung in Kindertageseinrichtungen), which specifies that ECEC staff must respect the individual personality of each child. There are also 16 curricular frameworks at Länder level that are more specific.

In Berlin, the curriculum framework embedded in the Early Years Programme (Berliner Bildungsprogramm für Kitas und Kindertagespflege) sets out quality requirements and quality criteria that must be implemented by all publicly funded early-years centres and family day-care services. This curriculum frames the pedagogical tasks of practitioners in terms of strengthening the potential of all children and their families, in a manner that takes children’s rights into account. For example, in a brochure for parents, an everyday activity in an early-years centre is described as a learning environment where children are encouraged to experiment, reach their own conclusions and develop an understanding of the results that reflects their own particular stage of development. Staff help children and offer explanations, support and motivation whenever needed, while letting children engage in activities by themselves. The curriculum guidelines encourage staff to discuss ideas with children, explain what is happening, support children in expanding their linguistic knowledge and skills, speak to children about different shapes and colours and discuss various materials and preferences.

Australia

In Australia, the National Quality Framework requires ECEC services to use an approved learning framework to inform their educational programme. Some material provided by the central government, such as the Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework (2010[31]), supports ECEC centres in implementation of the framework. The Guide covers elements of process quality, including ways to have meaningful interactions with children, support their play and cultural identity, and develop partnerships with families and communities. For example, regarding play, it asks educators to talk about and reflect on the degree to which children are involved in various types of play and the conditions that extend or limit their involvement. It also suggests assessing play and proposes experimenting with different roles in play, such as directing play or becoming a co-player.

Turkey

Staff knowledge, competences and skills are shaped by their initial education, training and experience and influence their pedagogical practices, as does the monitoring of process quality (Wall, Litjens and Taguma, 2015[32]). As part of the Turkish Preschool Education Programme, representatives of the ministry, academics, staff and experts from different sectors participate in developing and updating the curriculum framework. Teachers are informed about the components of process quality in mandatory professional development activities before and after the educational year. Teacher training activities also include visits to schools, where school principals and supervisors guide teacher practice according to good examples. Documentation and other sources of support to improve process quality are available online.

Finland

The 2019 Finnish Guidelines and Recommendations for Evaluating the Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care (Vlasov et al., 2019[33]) present a set of quality indicators for ECEC. The indicators are divided into structural and process-related factors of quality at the national level, the local level and the level of pedagogical activities. Process-related indicators include aspects of peer interaction and group atmosphere, such as a focus on group togetherness and belonging and support for versatile friendships.

Sources: Pianta, R. et al. (2005[16]), “Features of Pre-Kindergarten programs, classrooms, and teachers: Do they predict observed classroom quality and child-teacher interactions?”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s1532480xads0903_2; Sim, M. et al. (2019[17]), “Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018 Conceptual Framework”, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/106b1c42-en; Sylva, K. et al. (2004[22]), Technical paper 12: Final report - Effective pre-school education, Institute of Education University of London; Leseman, P. et al. (2017[29]), Effectiveness of Dutch targeted preschool education policy for disadvantaged children, http://dx.doi.org/10.4337/9781786432094.00019; Ansari, A. and K. Purtell (2018[30]), “Absenteeism in Head Start and children’s academic learning”, https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12800; Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (2010[31]), “Educators: Belonging, Being & Becoming”, https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/acecqa/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_guide_to_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia_2.pdf; Wall, S., I. Litjens and M. Taguma (2015[32]), Early Childhood Education and Care Pedagogy Review: England, https://www.oecd.org/education/early-childhood-education-and-care-pedagogy-review-england.pdf; Vlasov, J. et al. (2019[33]), Guidelines and Recommendations for Evaluating the Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care, https://karvi.fi/app/uploads/2019/03/FINEEC_Guidelines-and-recommendations_web.pdf.

copy the linklink copied!Engaging with parents and guardians

Because parents play a critical role in children’s learning, development and well-being, ECEC staff can engage with parents in two major ways. First, staff can raise parents’ awareness of the importance of activities in the centre and get their support for what is happening, to ensure that children develop good feelings about early education. Second, staff can directly help parents in their interactions with their children. As the characteristics of parents (such as their level of education) are important predictors of children’s development, staff can also try to target some parents in particular, to ensure that all children benefit from the best learning and development opportunities.

Staff’s perspective on engaging with parents and guardians

TALIS Starting Strong builds on the fact that the interactions between children and parents are at the core of children’s’ learning, development and well-being and that ECEC can play a role in these interactions. The Survey asks staff to indicate the extent to which a number of practices to engage parents/guardians are well established in their centre. These parent-engagement practices include informal options for parents to easily get in touch with staff, options to be informed on a regular basis about children’s daily activity or about their development, as well as more active forms of parental engagement, such as encouraging parents to do play and learning activities with their children.

Very high percentages of ECEC staff across all countries in pre-primary education centres report that practices to engage with parents/guardians are well established in their centre (Figure 2.6), particularly through parents getting in touch with staff easily (from 76% in Japan to 98% in Germany). Moreover, high percentages of ECEC staff report that, in their centre, parents are informed about children’s development, learning and well-being (from 83% in Japan to 96% in Chile), as well as about daily activities (from 76% in Israel to 92% in Norway) (Table D.2.3). In centres for children under age 3, practices to engage families are even more common than in centres for older children.

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Figure 2.6. Practices used by staff to facilitate engagement of parents or guardians
Percentage of staff who report that the following practice describes “well” or “very well” how they engage with parents or guardians at this ECEC centre
Figure 2.6. Practices used by staff to facilitate engagement of parents or guardians

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked according to the percentage of staff reporting that the practice “Parents or guardians can get in touch with ECEC staff easily” applies “very well” or “well” to the centre.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.3).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010261

Leaders’ perspective on engaging with parents and guardians

A large percentage of staff (albeit smaller than for other activities) report that they encourage parenting activities, such as doing play and learning activities with their children at home. In Iceland, Germany and Norway, smaller percentages of staff consider that this type of parenting activity is “well” or “very well” established in their centre than other activities to engage parents.

TALIS Starting Strong also asks leaders to report on whether some concrete activities were offered to parents or guardians during the 12 months prior to the Survey. There is more variation in leaders’ reports of centre support for parent/guardian engagement and participation than in staff reports, both across countries and across activities (Figure 2.7).

In all participating countries, with the exception of Israel, the majority of leaders in pre-primary education centres report setting up events for families and prospective parents or guardians to visit the centre. Workshops or courses regarding child-rearing or child development, which can influence interactions between children and parents, seem to be common in Chile, Korea and Norway, but less so in other countries, and they are generally not common in centres for children under age 3. These results follow the same direction as those reported by staff. It appears that parents are frequently in contact with staff or learn about the centre, but activities aiming to help parents in their interactions with children are less widespread. This pattern is to some extent also observed in centres for children under age 3.

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Figure 2.7. Activities provided by the centre to facilitate engagement of parents or guardians
Percentage of leaders who report that the centre provided the activity over the 12 months prior to the Survey
Figure 2.7. Activities provided by the centre to facilitate engagement of parents or guardians

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked according to the percentage of leaders reporting “Setting up events for families and prospective parents or guardians to visit the ECEC centre” were organised over the 12 months prior to the Survey.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.4).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010280

Countries can influence the engagement of parents by incorporating this aspect in curriculum frameworks and encouraging some practices in particular. The responses of national or sub-national authorities in charge of ECEC to a questionnaire on policies to ensure high quality in ECEC sheds light on how governments attempt to lead staff or centres to engage parents through the curriculum framework. In a majority of countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, the curriculum frameworks consider families as a core component of children’s ECEC experience (Figure 2.8). However, in a more limited number of countries, the curriculum suggests ways for ECEC teachers and leaders to engage parents.

Parents can also engage in the operation of the centre or in management decisions. This is not directly linked to children, but it can help parents become more committed to what is happening in the centre and can thereby indirectly affect children’s learning, development and well-being. Reports from TALIS Starting Strong indicate that meetings to allow parents to contribute to centre management decisions occur in Chile, Iceland, Korea, Norway and Turkey, but less so in Germany, Israel and Japan (Table D.2.4). In most participating countries, with the exception of Germany and Japan, a smaller percentage of leaders report that they engage parents in the operation of the centres. This pattern is also observed in centres for children under age 3. These findings may point to different types of centre management (see Chapter 5).

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Figure 2.8. Inclusion of families in the curriculum framework
Percentage of countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong for which the following statements apply, pre-primary education
Figure 2.8. Inclusion of families in the curriculum framework

Note: Each curriculum framework receives a score of 1 if the statement applies and of 0 if the statement does not apply. For countries with several curriculum frameworks, the information is averaged at the country level. For Germany, the information covers the following regions: Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, and North Rhine Westphalia. The figure shows the average score across the nine countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong.

Source: OECD (2019[28]), “OECD Network on Early Childhood Education and Care: Quality beyond Regulations survey”, internal document, OECD, Paris.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010299

The level of children's commitment to aspects that matter in their life depends on the extent to which they can actively participate and contribute to decision-making (Hilppö et al., 2016[34]) (Box 2.2). TALIS Starting Strong asks leaders to state how much they believe that centres provide opportunities for children to actively participate in decisions. In all countries, except Israel for centres for children under the age of 3, a majority of leaders “agree” or “strongly agree” that the centres provide opportunities for the children to participate in decisions (Figure 2.9).

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Box 2.2. Approaches to engage children in ECEC settings

Over the last decades, children’s views have been increasingly taken into account for shaping their own learning. This approach stems from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), as well as from research highlighting the importance of children’s active participation in pedagogies and education (Bandura et al., 2001[35]; Ebbeck et al., 2013[36]; Einarsdottir, 2007[37]; Hilppö et al., 2016[34]; Lipponen, Kumpulainen and Hilppö, 2013[38]). Research on ECEC curriculum confirms the importance of children’s perspectives, not only through their participation in activities, but also through their active input in decision-making (Brostöm, 2010[39]; Clark, McQuail and Moss, 2003[40]; Sommer, Pramling-Samuelsson and Hundeide, 2010[41]). Behind these notions lies the view of children as active agents in their own lives (Lipponen, Kumpulainen and Hilppö, 2013[38]; Strandell, 2010[42]).

Listening to children and their experiences helps to better understand the challenges they face, to improve the support given by parents, preschools and schools, to increase children’s self-esteem and to foster social competence (Clark, McQuail and Moss, 2003[40]). It can also help ECEC staff and management reflect on their own practice and aspects such as the design of indoor and outdoor spaces (Pramling Samuelsson and Asplund Carlsson, 2008[43]). To foster children’s participation, some countries have specified the right of children to participate in the design of their curriculum frameworks (Denmark, Norway, and Wales) and/or in their education acts (Finland, Norway and Sweden) (OECD, 2017[44]).

Norway

The Norwegian kindergarten (ECEC) places itself within the Nordic social-pedagogical tradition, which sees the child as an active participant in the learning processes. Inspired by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Norway introduced a section in the Kindergarten Act (2005) giving children in kindergarten “the right to express their views on the day-to-day activities of the kindergarten” (OECD, 2011[21]). The holistic approach is reflected in the Kindergarten Act’s purpose statement, which reflects the view that developing pupils’ knowledge, skills and attitudes is of great importance to their ability to master their own lives and participate successfully in work and social life (OECD, 2017[44]).

Germany

In the principles of elementary education in Brandenburg, (Grundsätze elementarer Bildung in Einrichtungen der Kindertagesbetreuung im Land Brandenburg), pedagogical staff are encouraged to put children’s interests and natural curiosity at the centre of their work. The educational processes of children are supported and challenged at the highest possible level, through a demanding material and spatial organisation of the day-care centre and through pedagogical interactions based on the wishes of each individual child, as well as on the educational goals of the adult. Sustainable learning is assumed to happen mostly when the learner is interested in the subject matter. In a day-care facility that works successfully with this approach, regular observation of the children, evaluation of these observations and development of individual curricula are part of everyday life for every child.

In the principles of education for children age 0-10 in day-care facilities and primary schools in North Rhine-Westphalia, (Bildungsgrundsätze für Kinder von 0 bis 10 Jahren in Kindertagesbetreuung und Schulen im Primarbereich in Nordrhein-Westfalen), the framework stipulates how adults can guide and support children's self-education and self-formation in active interaction with their environment, based on their life experience.

Sources: Hilppö, J. et al. (2016[34]), “Children’s sense of agency in preschool: a sociocultural investigation”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2016.1167676; Ebbeck, M. et al. (2013[36])(2013), “Children’s Voices: Providing Continuity in Transition Experiences in Singapore”, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-012-0556-3; Lipponen, L., K. Kumpulainen and J. Hilppö (2013[38]), Varhaiskasvatuksen pedagogiikka (Want, I can, I am able: Children’s sense of agency in preschool), Vastapaino, Tampere; Einarsdottir, J. (2007[37]), Children’s voices on the transition from preschool to primary school, Open University Press, McGraw Hill, Maidenhead; Bandura, A. et al. (2001[35]), “Self‐efficacy beliefs as shapers of children’s aspirations and career trajectories”, https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00273; Brostöm, S. (2010[39]), A Voice in Decision Making young children in Denmark, Trentham Publisher, Stoke-on-Trent; Clark, A., S. McQuail and P. Moss (2003[40]), Exploring the Field of Listening to and Consulting with Young Children, Department of Education and Skills Research, Nottingham; Sommer, D., I. Pramling-Samuelsson and K. Hundeide (2010[41]), Child Perspectives and Children’s Perspectives in Theory and Practice, Springer, New York; Strandell, H. (2010[42]), “From structure–action to politics of childhood: sociological childhood research”, https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392109354240; Pramling Samuelsson, I. and M. Asplund Carlsson (2008[43]), “The playing learning child: Towards a pedagogy of early childhood”, https://doi.org/10.1080/00313830802497265; OECD (2017[44]), Starting Strong V: Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264276253-en; OECD (2011[21]), Starting strong III: A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264123564-en.

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Figure 2.9. Opportunities for children’s participation in decisions
Percentage of leaders who “agree” or “strongly agree” that the centre provides opportunities for children to actively participate in decisions
Figure 2.9. Opportunities for children’s participation in decisions

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked in descending order of the percentage of leaders agreeing that their centre provides opportunities for children to actively participate in decisions.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010318

copy the linklink copied!Process quality in TALIS Starting Strong

TALIS Starting Strong gathers information from ECEC staff and centre leaders on their interactions with children and parents that are known from the research literature to enhance children’s development and well-being. The objective is to learn about the quality of these interactions or about process quality. Using a statistical approach, the information contained in answers to questions on practices used by staff with children and parents (as presented in the previous sections) can be grouped into indicators capturing the major dimensions of process quality included in TALIS Starting Strong.

Indicators of process quality

Several indicators are built for each of the dimensions covered in TALIS Starting Strong, using part of the information on practices presented in the previous sections. Those indicators are (Figure 2.10; Table 2.7):

  • Facilitating language, literacy, and numeracy development: Two indicators build on practices used at the centre level as reported by staff: facilitating literacy development; and facilitating numeracy development. These include several practices to immerse children in literacy and numeracy activities and to also offer opportunities for cognitive development. Practices to facilitate language development do not lead to an indicator reaching metric invariance (see Annex C).

  • Facilitating socio-emotional development: Two indicators build on practices used at the centre level as reported by staff: facilitating emotional development (which includes several practices on helping children to talk about feelings); and facilitating prosocial behaviour (which includes practices to encourage children to care about others). Practices to organise and encourage play do not lead to an indicator reaching metric invariance (see Annex C).

  • Group organisation and individual support: Two indicators build on practices used by staff in their work with the target group of children: adaptive practices (which include several practices to engage children depending on their backgrounds, interests and needs); and behavioural support (which includes practices to ensure children’s behaviour is supportive to learning and development).

  • Facilitating the engagement of parents/guardians: One indicator builds on practices used at the centre level as reported by staff. It covers the extent to which parents/guardians are informed about their children, but also are supported in their activities with them.

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Figure 2.10. Dimensions of process quality covered by TALIS Starting Strong
Figure 2.10. Dimensions of process quality covered by TALIS Starting Strong
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Table 2.7. Indicators of process quality developed in TALIS Starting Strong

Dimension

Indicator

Practices

Facilitating literacy and numeracy development (Practices used at the centre level, according to staff)

Facilitating literacy development

Play word games with the children, Play with letters with the children, Sing songs or rhymes with the children

Facilitating numeracy development

Use sorting activities by shape or colour, Play number games, Sing songs about numbers, Help children to use numbers or to count, Refer to groups of objects by the size of the group

Facilitating socio-emotional development (Practices used at the centre level, according to staff)

Facilitating emotional development

Hug the children, Talk with children about feelings, Help children to talk about what makes them happy, Help children to talk about what makes them sad

Facilitating prosocial behaviour

Encourage sharing among children, Encourage children to help each other, Encourage children playing in small groups to include other children, Encourage children if they comfort each other

Group organisation and individual support

(Practices used by staff with a target group of children)

Behavioural support

I help children to follow the rules, I calm children who are upset, When the activities begin, I ask children to quieten down, I address children’s disruptive behaviour that slows down other children’s learning1, I help children understand the consequences if they do not follow the rules

Adaptive practices

I set daily goals for the children, I explain how a new activity relates to children’s lives, I give different activities to suit different children’s level of development, I give different activities to suit different children’s interests, I adapt my activities to differences in children’s cultural background

Facilitating engagement of parents/guardians (Practices used at the centre level, according to staff)

Staff engagement with parents and guardians

Parents or guardians can get in touch with ECEC staff easily, Parents or guardians are informed about the development, well-being and learning of their children on a regular basis, Parents or guardians are informed about daily activities on a regular basis, Parents or guardians are encouraged by ECEC staff to play and do learning activities with their children at home

1. Not considered for staff in centres for children under age 3.

Note: This table shows the practices that are included in the indicators of process quality used in this publication.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

Because of their statistical properties, the indicators of process quality cannot be compared across countries (see Annex C). However, through statistical analysis, these indicators can be related to several aspects to better understand the determinants of process quality.

The relationship between various dimensions of process quality

The use of a variety of practices aiming to foster children’s literacy and numeracy development, children’s socio-emotional development and parents’ or guardians’ engagement can ensure children’s overall development and well-being. TALIS Starting Strong provides insight on the issue of whether staff in different countries tend to explore all the dimensions of practices or specialise in some of them.

On average in participating countries at the pre-primary education level, staff who report that practices to support numeracy development are largely used in the centre also report that practices to support literacy development are largely used (Table 2.8). The correlation is smaller, but still sizeable, between practices that facilitate emotional development and those that facilitate prosocial behaviour.

The correlations are smaller between different dimensions of process quality, such as between facilitating literacy development and facilitating emotional development or between facilitating numeracy development and facilitating prosocial behaviour. These findings suggest that practices to support literacy or numeracy development are not always used in conjunction with practices to facilitate emotional development or prosocial behaviour.

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Table 2.8. Relationship between and within dimensions of process quality
Correlation between indicators of process quality used at the centre level according to staff

Numeracy

Emotional Development

Prosocial Behaviour

Parent Engagement

Literacy

0.81

0.44

0.41

0.32

Numeracy

0.45

0.43

0.32

Emotional Development

0.62

0.30

Prosocial Behaviour

0.29

Note: All correlation coefficients are statistically significant.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010679

The correlations between practices facilitating parental engagement and practices facilitating literacy and numeracy development or practices facilitating socio-emotional development are even smaller in most countries. Overall, the findings suggest that, in most countries, staff could be better supported to adopt a wider diversity of practices, combining parental engagement with activities more directed to the child, which in turn would help foster children’s development in all its complex and intertwined dimensions.

copy the linklink copied!Professional beliefs

Staff and leaders’ beliefs regarding development and learning shape their practice and relationships with children. TALIS Starting Strong asks staff to indicate the extent to which they believe that certain skills or abilities are of high importance in preparing children for the future. These skills or abilities can be grouped into two major categories: 1) the foundational cognitive skills that are valued in schools and further education (such as children's reading, writing, and numeracy skills); and 2) those referred to as 21st century skills that encompass a range of cognitive and socioemotional skills valued more broadly in societies and by the labour market (such as children's ability to think creatively or to co-operate easily with others).

Preparing children for the future

Staff in pre-primary education centres consider that 21st century skills (such as children's abilities to co-operate easily with others, to inquire and explore based on their own curiosity and to think creatively) are the skills and abilities that are the most important for young children to develop (Table 2.9). On average, 86.5% of staff across countries agree on the “high importance” of developing children's ability to co-operate easily with others in order to prepare them for life in the future. With exception of Japan and Korea, the largest majority of staff also highly value children’s oral language skills (Table D.2.5), followed by creativity, curiosity and motor skills.

Pre-primary education staff from different countries have diverse views on the importance of foundational cognitive skills that are valued in schools and further education, such as reading, writing and numeracy skills (Table D.2.5). Large percentages of staff in Chile and Turkey, and to a lesser extent in Iceland and Israel, value numeracy and reading, while small percentages of staff in Denmark (with low response rates), Japan, Korea and Norway accord high value to those skills. Skills related to science and technology tend to be less valued by staff in pre-primary education centres across countries (Figure 2.11), reflecting limited availability of or access to adequate ICT materials, potential gaps in ECEC training on practices to develop those skills at an early age (Chapter 3) or beliefs that they are best developed at a later age.

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Table 2.9. Top three staff beliefs about skills and abilities that will prepare children for life in the future
Beliefs for which the highest percentage of staff report they are “of high importance” for the centre to develop

Children's oral language skills

Children's physical and motor skills (e.g. physical exercises, dancing, playing musical instruments)

Children's ability to think creatively1

Children's ability to co-operate easily with others

Children's ability to inquire and explore based on their own curiosity

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Chile

1

3

2

Germany*

1

3

2

Iceland

2

3

1

Israel

2

3

1

Japan

3

1

2

Korea

3

1

2

Norway

2

1

3

Turkey

2

1

3

Denmark**

2

1

3

Centres for children under age 3

Germany*

1

3

2

Israel

2

3

1

Norway

2

1

3

Denmark**

1

2

3

1. Not considered for staff in centres for children under age 3.

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.

Note: A total of 11 beliefs are included in the ranking for pre-primary education centres and 4 beliefs for centres for children under age 3, corresponding to question 21 of the staff TALIS Starting Strong questionnaire.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.5).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010698

The Survey’s question on beliefs of staff working with children under age 3 only included four skills or abilities that are considered applicable to children of this age (oral language, motor skills, ability to co-operate and curiosity). For these four skills, staff in centres for children under age 3 tend to value most highly the same skills as staff in pre-primary education centres (Table 2.9). Moreover, in all countries where the distinction between teachers and assistants can be made, there is a shared view between teachers and assistants on the most important skills to develop for the future in ECEC centres (Table D.2.5).

TALIS Starting Strong also asks leaders to indicate the extent to which they believe that these same skills or abilities are of high importance in preparing children for life in the future. In general, rates of importance for all skills or abilities tend to be somewhat higher for leaders in all countries, with the exception of Turkey. In Turkey, reading, numeracy and science are more valued by staff than by leaders (Figure 2.11).

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Figure 2.11. Beliefs of leaders and staff about skills and abilities that will prepare children for life in the future
Percentage of leaders and staff reporting that it is “of high importance” for the centre to develop the ability or skill, pre-primary education (ISCED 02), average of participating countries
Figure 2.11. Beliefs of leaders and staff about skills and abilities that will prepare children for life in the future

Note: Leaders who routinely engage in staff duties, in addition to their work as leaders, are included in both the leader and staff categories.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Tables D.2.5 and D.2.6).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010337

Compared to staff, a larger share of leaders accord high value to children’s skills related to science and technology. These are the skills for which the difference between leaders’ and staff's views is most pronounced, highlighting the potential for support, training and guidance of staff to align centre priorities.

Professional beliefs and practices

Staff beliefs regarding development and learning can shape their practices. Pre-primary education staff reporting that it is “of high importance” to develop children’s ability to co-operate easily with others also report that their centres adopt practices facilitating prosocial behaviour and emotional development (Figure 2.12). The association is statistically significant for all countries except Iceland.

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Figure 2.12. Relationship between beliefs on 21st century skills and practices facilitating socio-emotional development at the centre level
Strength of the association between staff-reported beliefs in the importance of children's ability to co-operate easily with others and practices to facilitate prosocial behaviour and emotional development at the centre level, pre-primary education (ISCED 02)
Figure 2.12. Relationship between beliefs on 21st century skills and practices facilitating socio-emotional development at the centre level

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Coefficients from the OLS regressions of the indicator “Facilitating prosocial behaviour” and of the indicator “Facilitating emotional development” on the item “Importance of children's ability to co-operate easily with others in the future”. Other variables in the regression include: staff educational attainment; training to work with children; experience; years of experience; role in the target group; working hours; contractual status; number of children in the target group (quartiles); number of staff per child working with the target group (quartiles); percentage of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes in the target group; centre urban/rural location; and public/private management. The computation of the number of children in the target group and of the number of staff per child working with the target group, are explained in Box 2.3. See Annex C for more details on variables included in the regression model. Statistically significant results are in blue.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the strength of association between the “Importance of children's ability to co-operate easily with others for life in the future” and “Facilitating prosocial behaviour”.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.7).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010356

Similarly, staff who believe it is important to develop reading and writing skills also report that specific practices putting stronger emphasis on literacy (e.g. playing word games or playing with letters) are used in the centre (Figure 2.13). The same is true for beliefs in the importance of developing early numeracy skills. Pre-primary staff who report that it is of high importance to develop numeracy skills also report common use in their centres of practices such as playing number games and helping children to use numbers or to count and sorting activities by shape or colour. Associations between beliefs and practices in these domains are strong for all countries and are generally found to be stronger for numeracy than literacy, with the exception of Norway.

Overall, the findings suggest that, in most countries, beliefs can shape practices. If staff believe in the importance of establishing socio-emotional and cognitive skills at an early age, they are more likely to report the use of practices that facilitate the development of these skills. Training staff on the importance of facilitating children’s learning, development and well-being in multiple dimensions is a way to ensure that staff use a well-diversified set of practices.

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Figure 2.13. Relationship between beliefs on foundational cognitive skills and practices to facilitate literacy and numeracy development at the centre level
Strength of the association between staff-reported beliefs in the importance of reading, writing and math skills and practices to facilitate literacy and numeracy development at the centre level, pre-primary education (ISCED 02)
Figure 2.13. Relationship between beliefs on foundational cognitive skills and practices to facilitate literacy and numeracy development at the centre level

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: Coefficients from the OLS regressions of the indicator “Facilitating literacy learning” on the item “Importance of children’s reading and writing skills for life in the future” and of the indicator “Facilitating numeracy learning” on the item “Importance of children’s math skills and understanding of key concepts in math for life in the future”. Other variables in the regression include: staff educational attainment; training to work with children; experience; years of experience; role in the target group; working hours; contractual status; number of children in the target group (quartiles); number of staff per child working with the target group (quartiles); percentage of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes in the target group; centre urban/rural location; and public/private management. The computation of the number of children in the target group and of the number of staff per child working with the target group, are explained in Box 2.3. See Annex C for more details on variables included in the regression model. Statistically significant results are in blue.

Countries are ranked in descending order of the strength of association between the “Importance of children’s reading and writing skills for life in the future” and “Facilitating literacy development”.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.7).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010375

copy the linklink copied!The organisation of activities with a group of children

The organisation of activities in ECEC varies a lot across countries. In some countries, all children of the centre can have activities together, with several staff members involved. In other countries, activities are organised with small groups of children and a more limited number of staff. The organisation of activities also depends on the size of the ECEC centre and the age of the children. This is quite different from primary education, where most countries organise learning and development activities around classes of children. In some countries, activities for the oldest children in pre-primary education can take place with groups of children that are closer to the concept of a school class, but this is not a general pattern for this level of education. For these reasons, the notion of a group of children and its characteristics can correspond to very different realities depending on countries, centres and ages of children.

The size of the group of children that staff are working with can affect the type of practices that will be used and, in the end, the quality of interactions between children and staff (OECD, 2018[14]). TALIS Starting Strong asks staff to indicate the number of boys and girls in the target group (the first group of children they were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey) and their age (Box 2.3). The Survey also asks about the types and frequencies of practices used by staff with the same group of children. It is, therefore, possible to relate practices to the size and composition of the group of children.

Size of the group of children and number of staff with the group

The size of the target group of children in pre-primary education centres varies between around 16 children on average in Germany, Iceland, Korea, Norway and Turkey to more than 20 in Chile, Israel and Japan (Figure 2.14). The size of the target group is slightly smaller in centres for younger children than in centres for older children, but those numbers hide the fact that most countries implement quite different regulations on the size of groups for children under age 1 and 1-or-2 year-olds. There are also large variations in the number of children in the target group within countries. For instance, the average number of children per target group in pre-primary centres is 16 in Iceland, Korea, Norway and Turkey, but there is more in-country variation in Iceland than in the other three countries.

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Figure 2.14. Number of children and staff working with the same target group on the same day
Staff reports on the type of staff and the number of children in the target group, average across staff reports
Figure 2.14. Number of children and staff working with the same target group on the same day

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: The computation of the number of children and the number of staff in the target group, as well as the interpretation of these indicators, are explained in Box 2.3. “Other” includes staff for individual children, staff for special tasks, interns and others.

Countries are ranked according to the number of staff working with the same target group of children on the same day.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Tables D.2.8 and D.2.9).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010394

TALIS Starting Strong also asks respondents about the number of adults who were working with the same target group on that day. Those adults may not have been working with the group of children at the same time, and the group of children may have changed over the day, as some children only attend for part of the day. This information gives an indication of the number of staff a child in the target group might have seen over the day as part of activities within the group. The number of staff working with the same target group of children on the same day reflects the number of adults children may interact with and can affect the dynamics of activities proposed to children. In pre-primary education centres, it is close to six staff members in Germany, Japan, Norway and Turkey and more than eight staff members in Chile, Iceland and Korea. Staff include teachers and assistants, but also a large share of adults belonging to other categories, such as staff for individual children, staff for specific tasks and interns. For children under age 3, the number of staff is slightly higher than in pre-primary education centres in Germany and Israel and slightly lower in Norway. These differences across countries partly stem from differences in the organisation of groups, with some countries, such as Germany and Korea, adopting flexible types of organisation with mixed-age groups of children and multiple staff members in the same room (Box 2.4).

The information on the size of the group and the number of staff working with the same group on the same day can be combined to derive an indicator of the number of adults per child working with the same target group on the same day. This indicator reflects the extent to which children can be in contact with a small or large number of staff as part of their daily learning and development activities in a group. This concept differs from the regulatory ratio of staff to children or the number of children per staff observed at the centre level (Box 2.3). There is large variation across countries in the average number of staff per child working with the same target group on the same day, ranging from two to three staff members per ten children in Israel and Japan to almost nine staff members per ten children in Iceland in pre-primary centres (Figure 2.15). In centres for younger children, the number of staff per child working with the same target group on the same day is slightly higher.

In pre-primary education centres, children’s age in the target group in all countries is around age 4, with the exception of Korea (around age 3.5) and Turkey (around age 5) (Table D.2.9). Like Korea, Denmark (with low response rates) has slightly younger groups compared to the other countries. In Korea, some ECEC centres serve children age 0-5 and groups of younger children are together with groups of older children with several teachers in the same space.

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Box 2.3. Number of children and staff in the target group

TALIS Starting Strong asks staff to take the example of the target group (the first group of children they were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey). Respondents indicate the category that best represents their role when working with this group of children (leaders, teachers, assistants, staff for individual children, staff for special tasks, interns and other staff), as well as the number of girls and boys who made up the group.

This information is used to derive three indicators: 1) the number of children per target group; 2) the number of staff working with the same target group on the same day; and 3) the number of staff per child working with the same target group on the same day.

The number of staff per child with the same target group on the same day refers to the number of staff working with the same target group, regardless of their role, divided by the number of children in the target group. Because the number of staff per individual child is very low, when specific examples are cited for comparative purposes, they are presented as “number of staff per ten children”, which is obtained by multiplying the number of staff per child by ten.

The number of staff per child working with the same target group on the same day reflects a specific situation and is, therefore, different from the number of staff per child at the centre level. Staff may be working with the same target group at different moments of the day and not together, or may work part-time. Children in the same group may also change over the day into different group compositions, and children’s attendance hours of children can differ. This concept also differs from the regulated maximum numbers of children per staff member, as that could include some restrictions on the staff to be included (depending on their qualifications or role) and can be specific to the age group of children.

As there is no indicator clarifying which target group each staff member referred to, several staff members may have referred to the same target group. This can result in a bias, as some target groups may be over-represented in the data.

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Figure 2.15. Average number of staff per ten children working with the same target group on the same day
Figure 2.15. Average number of staff per ten children working with the same target group on the same day

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: The computation of the number of staff per ten children working with the same target group, as well as the interpretation of this indicator, are explained in Box 2.3.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010413

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Box 2.4. Flexible or fixed groups of children

ECEC settings can use different approaches to group organisation and activity settings to structure children’s time throughout the day, and this is likely to play a role in the type of opportunities created for interaction. In particular, the amount of time that children are expected to engage in small-group routines or free play can have a major role in the ways children interact with the teacher, relate to each other and learn (Booren, 2013[45]; Cabell, 2013[46]; Early et al., 2010[47]; Fuligni, 2012[48]; Howes et al., 2008[4]).

ECEC settings may organise groups in a fixed approach, assigning a specific group of children to a specific group of staff, mimicking the more traditional classroom approach of later schooling. Children in the fixed group follow a common routine, which may involve more structured time, as well as open choice in different classroom corners or activities. Groups organised in this way are generally, but not always, homogenous in age.

This is the case in Chile and Israel. In densely populated areas of Turkey, independent kindergartens (Bağımsız anaokulu) for 3-5 year-olds are organised with two groups of children in the same class, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with two different teachers in a type of dual shift. Staff-protected time, separated from their contact time with children, builds on this dual-shift approach to ensure that teachers have enough time to plan activities for children.

Alternatively, ECEC settings may take a flexible approach to activities, balancing free play and structured activities, while accommodating children’s interests. Children in a flexible group setting may experience different groups of peers and staff throughout the day. This is sometimes described as an open-concept approach to pedagogical practices (Wall, Litjens and Taguma, 2015[32]). Children can choose the activities they want to participate in, which are usually offered in different rooms in the ECEC centre.

This is the case in some centres in Germany, where there are no classrooms as such, but instead rooms with areas for construction play, reading, playing with dolls and creative activities. Academic learning activities, such as language learning, are typically embedded in everyday activities (Wall, Litjens and Taguma, 2015[32]). In these settings, ECEC is provided in mixed-age groups, which may cover a span from age 1 until school enrolment age. This gives children the opportunity to learn from those older than they are and for older children to take responsibility for younger children.

Sources: Fuligni, A. (2012[48]), “Activity settings and daily routines in preschool classrooms: Diverse experiences in early learning settings for low-income children”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2011.10.001; Howes, C. et al. (2008[4]), “Ready to learn? Children’s pre-academic achievement in pre-Kindergarten programs”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2007.05.002; Booren, L. (2013[45]), “Observations of children’s interactions with teachers, peers and tasks across preschool classroom activity settings”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2010.548767; Cabell, S. (2013[46]), “Variation in the effectiveness of instructional interactions across preschool classroom settings and learning activities”, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2013.07.007; Early, D. et al. (2010[47]), “How do pre-kindergarteners spend their time? Gender, ethnicity, and income as predictors of experiences in pre-kindergarten classrooms”, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2009.10.003; Wall, S., I. Litjens and M. Taguma (2015[32]), Early Childhood Education and Care Pedagogy Review: England, https://www.oecd.org/education/early-childhood-education-and-care-pedagogy-review-england.pdf.

Size of the group of children and practices

For each country, answers from staff on the number of children per group leads to a distribution that can be divided into quarters with equal frequencies of group size. It is then possible to compare answers from staff working with a relatively small group compared to the country distribution (first quarter) to those from staff working with a relatively large group of children for that country (fourth quarter).

On average in participating countries, pre-primary education staff working with a relatively large group of children are more likely to report that they “always or almost always” ask the children to quieten down when activities begin or address children’s disruptive behaviour that slows down other children’s learning (Figure 2.16). For other practices, no statistically significant differences emerge. When the whole range of practices for behavioural support is considered and when other factors are accounted for through a regression analysis, increasing the size of the group of children from the first quarter to the fourth quarter is significantly statistically associated with more practices for behavioural support in Chile, Korea and Israel at pre-primary education level and in Denmark (with low response rate) in centres for children under age 3 (Table D.3.6). In those three countries, there is also a positive relationship between increasing the size of the group of children from the first to the fourth quarter and adaptive practices, such as explaining how a new activity relates to children's lives or giving different activities to suit different children's interests.

Behavioural support and adapting practices to individual needs can be positive for children’s learning and development. However, investing greater time in these practices may also imply that staff have less time to focus on other activities. Among the countries for which the relationship between the size of the target group and practices is statistically significant, the average number of children per target group is relatively large in Chile and Israel. In contrast, in Japan, the average number of children per target group is large, but the size of the group of children and practices for group organisation and individual support do not appear to be significantly statistically related.

These results are obtained after accounting for staff’s educational background and preparation to work with children. They show that staff with similar education and training more frequently use practices for behavioural support (in Chile, Denmark [with low response rates], Israel and Korea) and adapt their practices to individual needs (in Denmark [with low response rates], Germany, Israel and Turkey) when they are with bigger groups of children. However, there is also a positive relationship between staff’s education and training and the use of those practices (see Chapter 3). Having too many children in the group is also a source of stress for large percentages of staff in some countries (see Chapter 3). Pending further investigation, the policy implication seems to be that in countries with large groups of children, staff need to be particularly well educated and trained. Some countries could also investigate the need to reduce the size of groups, especially in centres where staff work with large groups of children.

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Figure 2.16. Adapting practices to differences in the size of the group of children
Percentage of pre-primary education (ISCED 02) staff who “always or almost always” use the following practices, for staff working with relatively small target groups of children (first quarter) and relatively large target groups of children (fourth quarter), average across participating countries
Figure 2.16. Adapting practices to differences in the size of the group of children

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010432

copy the linklink copied!Equity and diversity: beliefs and practices

In the way they interact with children in their daily experience, staff can support children’s learning and development, building on children’s strengths and areas for growth. For children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, those with special needs or those whose family language or cultural background is different from that of the majority of children at the ECEC centre, individualised interactions with staff can smooth the transition to ECEC and ensure children are able to benefit from rich environments for learning, development and play. The literature suggests that high-quality ECEC can be particularly advantageous for these different groups of children (Arnold and Doctoroff, 2003[49]; Gambaro, Stewart and Waldfogel, 2014[50]; Heckman, 2006[51]).

TALIS Starting Strong makes it possible to learn about the characteristics of children in the group and the percentage of staff working with different group composition, depending on children’s backgrounds and needs. It also enables investigation of how staff practices may differ depending on the characteristics of the group of children.

Group composition

TALIS Starting Strong identifies four groups of children who may particularly benefit from specialised attention from staff related to differences in their socio-economic or cultural background or related to special needs:

  • Children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes: Children from homes lacking the necessities or advantages of life, such as adequate housing, nutrition or medical care.

  • Children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the ECEC centre.

  • Children with special needs: Children for whom a special learning need has been formally identified because they are cognitively, physically or emotionally disadvantaged.

  • Children who are refugees: Children who, regardless of legal status, fled to another country seeking refuge from war, political oppression, religious persecution or natural disaster. However, as the Survey does not adequately capture variation across countries of the percentage of children in the target group who are refugees, this group is not discussed in this chapter.

The Survey asks staff to estimate the broad percentage (none, 1% to 10%, 11% to 30%, 31% to 60%, more than 60%) of these types of children in the target group.

A threshold of 10% is used to identify groups of children that can be considered homogenous in terms of socio-economic background. The percentage of staff working with target groups with 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes varies quite a lot across countries (Figure 2.17). At pre-primary education level, in Iceland, Japan, Korea and Norway, fewer than 10% of staff report working with groups with a share of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes above this threshold. This percentage amounts to 14% in Israel, from 20% to 26% in Germany and Turkey, and 48% in Chile.

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Figure 2.17. Group concentration of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes
Percentage of staff reporting that the target group includes 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes
Figure 2.17. Group concentration of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010451

Differences across countries in the percentage of staff working with large shares of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes most likely reflect different levels of poverty in participating countries. For some countries, this percentage could appear low and not fully reflect the perceived reality. TALIS Starting Strong defines children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes by using a concept of absolute poverty, according to which disadvantaged homes are homes lacking basic living standards. In many advanced economies with a range of social benefits and medical insurance, not so many households would fall into this category. These differences can also reflect differences in social protection and welfare systems across countries that determine the various forms of support for children and families and can influence children’s age of enrolment in ECEC.

Finally, differences could emerge from inequalities in access to ECEC within countries depending on children’s socio-economic background. International studies show enrolment in ECEC is generally not evenly distributed across population subgroups. Specifically, children with immigrant parents, children from low-income families and children from non-native speaking families are less likely to attend ECEC than their native-born, more affluent or native-speaking counterparts (Brandon, 2004[52]; Buriel and Hurtado-Ortiz, 2000[53]; Crosnoe, 2007[54]; Magnuson, Lahaie and Waldfogel, 2006[55]; Shuey and Kankaraš, 2018[27]). Features of access, such as availability of care, quality of care and convenience, explain some of these differences. However, research points to cultural preferences and values as also contributing to differences in participation in ECEC across groups (Yoshikawa, 2011[56]). In many OECD countries, children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes attend ECEC for a shorter period of time than advantaged children (OECD, 2017[57]). However, in countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, this gap is small, except in Turkey and, to some extent, in Chile (see Chapter 4).

The presence of children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre can also affect the use of practices by staff. In Germany, Iceland and Norway, over a third of staff report working with groups at pre-primary education level that include 11% or more children with a different first language (Figure 2.18). In contrast, in Chile, Japan and Korea, a small share of staff work with groups with 11% or more children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre. In the participating countries, the share of staff working with groups with 11% or more children with a different first language is slightly lower in centres for children under age 3 than in pre-primary centres, except in Norway. The differences suggest that entry into ECEC may be delayed until pre-primary level for children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre.

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Figure 2.18. Group concentration of children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre
Percentage of staff reporting that the target group includes 11% or more children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre
Figure 2.18. Group concentration of children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010470

The enrolment of children with special needs in ECEC can foster their development and facilitate the intervention of specialised staff. At pre-primary level, in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates) and Iceland, more than 20% of staff report working with groups with more than 11% of children with special needs, while this percentage is at 5% in Turkey (Figure 2.19). It is also lower than 10% in countries with data for children under age 3. There are several possible reasons for these variations across countries. They could reflect differences in the countries’ inclusion policies regarding children with special needs, in the number and level of training of professionals available to diagnose the needs and integrate children in ECEC or in parental perceptions of quality of practices.

Differences in the percentages of staff indicating that they work with groups with at least 1% of children with special needs (likely much below the actual share of young children with special needs) may shed light on those aspects. At pre-primary level, 60% to 70% of staff report working with groups with 1% or more children with special needs in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates), Iceland, Japan and Norway, but the percentage is lower in Germany, Israel, Korea and Turkey. In centres for children under age 3, the percentage is much lower, suggesting a lower enrollment or lack of identification of children with special needs. In Norway, for pre-primary education centres, the percentage of staff reporting that they work with groups with at least 1% of children with special needs is high, but the percentage of staff reporting that they work with groups with at least 11% of children with special needs is relatively low. This finding may indicate that children with special needs are enrolled in ECEC and identified, but not grouped together.

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Figure 2.19. Group concentration of children with special needs
Percentage of staff reporting that the target group includes at least 1% or 11% of children with special needs
Figure 2.19. Group concentration of children with special needs

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked according to the percentage of target groups with more than 11% of children with special needs.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010489

Adapting practices to children’s needs and diversity

There are several ways for staff to adapt their practices to the strengths and needs of individual children. A first general approach consists of intensifying the use of practices that broadly foster children’s development and well-being. A second general approach consists of adopting specific practices to ensure better inclusion of these children in the classroom or playground and to stimulate their development and well-being.

For ECEC to address children’s unique needs related to their socio-economic or language and cultural background or their special needs, staff can intensify the use of practices fostering children’s development with more diverse groups of children. At the same time, some of these practices can be more difficult to use with a diverse group of children, or staff may not be sure of how to appropriately adapt their practices.

TALIS Starting Strong provides evidence that staff adapt their practices to the characteristics of children in the group. The percentage of staff reporting that they always or almost always adapt their activities to differences in children’s cultural background is higher for staff working with a larger percentage of children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre or who are from socio-economically disadvantaged homes (Figure 2.20). When other factors are accounted for, the relationship between adaptive practices and the percentage of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes is positive for most countries, although it is not always statistically significant (Table D.3.6).

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Figure 2.20. Adapting activities to differences in children’s cultural background
Percentage of pre-primary education (ISCED 02) staff who report that they “always or almost always” adapt their activities to differences in children’s cultural background, by characteristics of children in the target group, average across participating countries
Figure 2.20. Adapting activities to differences in children’s cultural background

Note: For children whose first language is different from the language(s) used at the centre, the reference is set to “None” as at least one child in a group of any size could make a difference in terms of practice.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010508

Attitude towards diversity at the centre level

Among the practices and activities that can be developed for better inclusion of all children, TALIS Starting Strong asks leaders about staff beliefs regarding the importance of addressing multicultural diversity in the centres and asks staff about the use of practices valuing and acknowledging diversity in the group of children. The literature suggests that practices emphasising the equality of children and not referring exclusively to the dominant culture limit discrimination and lead to better integration of children from different cultures.

The attitude of staff and their beliefs in relation to diversity can shape their practices with children. However, asking staff about a sensitive issue such as their beliefs on the importance of equity can result in respondents answering in a manner that will be viewed favourably by others, because of desirability pressure. To at least partly overcome this bias in responses, TALIS Starting Strong follows TALIS (OECD, 2019[2]), asking leaders approximately how many of the staff in their centre (“none or almost none”, “some of them”, “many” or “all or almost all”) would agree with a series of statements. For example, leaders report on the levels of agreement among their staff on the importance of addressing multicultural diversity in the centres by getting children to learn that people from other cultures can have different values or to respect other cultures.

Generally, a very high percentage of leaders in pre-primary education centres and centres for children under age 3 report that “many” or “all or almost all” of their staff agree that it is important for children to learn that people from other cultures can have different values and that respecting other cultures is something that children should learn as early as possible (Figure 2.21). Japan, with lower diversity in its population than other participating countries, also shows the lowest percentages of staff agreement, as perceived by leaders.

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Figure 2.21. Beliefs about multicultural and diversity approaches in the centres
Percentage of leaders who report that “many” or “all or almost all” staff would agree with the following statements
Figure 2.21. Beliefs about multicultural and diversity approaches in the centres

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Notes: The relevant questions were not administered to leaders of pre-primary education centres (ISCED 02) in Israel.

Countries are ranked according to the percentage of leaders who report that “all or almost all” staff would agree with the statement that “It is important for children to learn that people from other cultures can have different values”.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.10).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010527

TALIS Starting Strong also asks staff about the extent to which diversity activities and practices happen in their centre as part of daily interactions with children. On average, a majority of staff in pre-primary centres report that it is more common for centres to provide diverse materials (such as books, pictures or toys showing people from different ethnic/cultural groups) than to organise activities emphasising what people from different ethnic and cultural groups have in common (Figure 2.22, Table D.2.11). According to staff, it is also less common for centres to facilitate children’s play with toys and artefacts from cultures other than the ethnic majority. The same pattern holds for centres for children under age 3.

Overall, these findings suggest that there is broad recognition at the centre level of the importance of adopting a multicultural and gender-diversity approach. However, this recognition does not always translate into the use of specific approaches to emphasise the equity of ECEC. This may reflect an intention to treat all children in the same way, indicate limited availability of or access to adequate resources or suggest a need for staff to be better prepared to work with a diverse group of children (see Chapter 3). Some countries have made efforts to better integrate the topic of diversity in the curriculum (Box 2.5).

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Figure 2.22. Multicultural and diversity approaches used in daily interactions with children
Percentage of staff reporting that the following activity or practice happens “to some extent” or “a lot” in their centre
Figure 2.22. Multicultural and diversity approaches used in daily interactions with children

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

Note: Countries are ranked according to the percentage of staff who report that using books and pictures featuring people with a variety of ethnic and cultural groups happens “to some extent” or “a lot” in their centre.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database (Table D.2.11).

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010546

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Box 2.5. Approaches to diversity

Cultural values and languages are a key aspect of quality ECEC. Because ECEC centres are becoming more culturally diverse, with children from different backgrounds and home environments, acknowledging the need for multicultural and multilingual curriculum approaches is important for effective programmes. Settings and activities can be designed to accommodate different approaches to young children’s learning. The wide range of cultures, communities and settings in which young children grow up makes it essential to engage different stakeholders in developing and refining curricula and other ECEC resources and to adapt these documents to local or cultural circumstances when needed (OECD, 2011[21]).

New Zealand

New Zealand’s educational framework is exemplary in its attempt to acknowledge the importance of different cultural backgrounds, validate the role of minorities and preserve languages and cultures that might otherwise disappear (Wall, Litjens and Taguma, 2015[32]). The national curriculum, Te Whāriki, which is applicable to all ECEC settings, aims to promote holistic, continuous development from birth to school starting age. The New Zealand curriculum is written in two languages, English and Māori, whose messages complement one another. It provides both general instructions and specific instructions for distinctive contexts, including the Māori immersion and Pasefika programmes, which are targeted to specific cultural groups with the goal of cultural preservation. Each ECEC service is required to develop its own programme, following the national curriculum framework. How the curriculum is implemented depends on teachers, parents and whānau, the extended family, which, in Māori culture, is considered to play a crucial role in a child’s life (Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, 2007[58]).

Norway

In Norway, the revised Framework Plan emphasises diversity and mutual respect. It states that ECEC centres “shall use diversity as a resource in their pedagogical practices and support, empower and respond to the children according to their respective cultural and individual circumstances”. To support ECEC staff in their work with diversity, the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training has provided guides, webinars and short films online on language diversity as well as on Sami culture and identity.

Sources: OECD (2011[21]), Starting strong III: A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264123564-en; Wall, S., I. Litjens and M. Taguma (2015[32]), Early Childhood Education and Care Pedagogy Review: England, https://www.oecd.org/education/early-childhood-education-and-care-pedagogy-review-england.pdf; Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC (2007[58]), Good governance of child care: What does it mean? What does it look like?, http://www.cccabc.bc.ca/cccabcdocs/governance/ggcc_combined.pdf.

copy the linklink copied!Conclusion and policy implications

This chapter presents findings from TALIS Starting Strong on the practices staff report using with children, the organisation of activities with a group of children, the extent to which staff and leaders are exposed to a diversity of children and how they adapt practices to ensure that all children benefit from ECEC experiences.

In most countries, large percentages of staff report that most of the practices included in the survey are used to a large extent in their centre. However, staff use specific practices that emphasise literacy and numeracy to a lesser extent. With a group of children, activities for behavioural support are more commonly used than practices to adapt to children’s needs or background, while most teachers work with a diversity of children. These findings may not necessarily point to something that can or needs to be changed. Activities with young children require a lot of behavioural support, and a slow immersion in literacy and numeracy is needed at this age. However, if some factors are preventing staff from adopting a holistic approach to children’s learning, development and well-being, this needs to be addressed by policies. This chapter puts forward a number of factors related to practices. They provide indications on the main policy areas to support the use of a range of practices to foster all dimensions of learning, development and well-being for all children.

Policy approaches can include:

  1. 1. Supporting staff in the use of a broad range of practices to explore all the dimensions of children’s development: The chapter shows that staff beliefs are strongly related to their practices. Pre-service and in-service education and training for staff can shape those beliefs. Policies can ensure that education and training programmes for staff lead to a common understanding of developmentally appropriate ways to support children’s learning and lay foundations for the development of future skills and abilities.

  2. 2. Preparing staff to work with large groups of children and facilitating interactions as part of small groups of children: With a larger group of children, staff bring more support to children’s behaviour and, to some extent, adapt their practices more to children’s individual needs. This finding has two policy implications. The first is to ensure that well-trained staff are allocated to larger groups of children. The second is to investigate the possibility to adopt flexible organisation of activities and practices over the course of the day to ensure that staff interact with small groups of children in at least some moments during the day. With small groups of children, staff can to concentrate on the full range of activities that enhance children’s learning, development and well-being.

  3. 3. Better engaging parents: There could be many benefits from engaging parents in ECEC for children’s development. In all countries, parents are engaged in several ways, but this engagement could be deepened, particularly by using contacts between the ECEC workforce and parents as a bridge to children’s development at home. Policy implications include better reflecting the importance of engaging parents in curriculum frameworks, providing guidelines to staff on how to engage with parents and, more generally, better preparing staff to make the most of their links with parents.

  4. 4. Ensuring that all children benefit from ECEC: TALIS Starting Strong shows that many staff work with diverse groups of children. Staff adapt their activities to children’s language or cultural background. Most leaders report that respecting other cultures is a shared value. However, in almost all participating countries, a majority of staff do not, for example, frequently use toys representing other cultures. Providing concrete opportunities to young children to get a better understanding of the diversity of cultures can be effective in the integration of all children. In many ways, policies can ensure better integration of all children in ECEC. This chapter points to the need to value the diversity of cultures through incorporating this issue in curriculum frameworks, guidelines to staff and material for children. Preparing staff to work with a diversity of children is also crucial (see Chapter 3).

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2. Interactions between children, staff and parents/guardians in early childhood education and care centres