Social Skills of First-Grade Primary School Students and Preschool Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Educational opportunities provided to children in preschool age not only support their development but also make positive contribution to parent--child relations. For long years, many studies carried out with various sample groups and in various cultures have shown that preschool education contributes to children's cognitive, emotional, social and bodily development as well as to their family (Horn et al. 2005; Huffman, Mehlinger and Kerivan, 2000; Jalongo et al. 2004; Pianta et al. 2002; Ramey and Ramey, 1998; Ramey et al. 2000; Tesser and Iedema, 2001). In the early years of their life, children acquire certain critical skills such as talking, walking and self-care, which lay the ground for many future skills (Hawken, Johnston and McDonnell, 2005). Preschool education supports their development in the short run, and contributes to the formation of positive behaviors in the long run. Experiences support the development of social skills. Therefore, many communities carry out various practices in preschool education to increase the motivation of children, to protect them from violence and to ensure their development.

Preschool education indirectly influences primary education through its effects on children. Preschool education has positive impacts on other stages of education (Al-Sahel 2006; Driessen 2004; Fantuzzo et al. 2005; Pianta et al. 2002). Research demonstrates that behavior problems in preschool period can continue in primary education years (Pianta and Stuhlman, 2004). Similarly, it is known that, compared to their peers, children who receive preschool education have higher levels of learning skills, more diverse skills and higher academic success during primary and secondary education (Sucuka et al. 1999). Downer and Pianta (2006) conducted a research with 832 children for two years, where they studied the impacts of preschool education on the development in the first year of primary school. The results show that family dynamics, academic success and quality of child care in preschool period is directly related with academic success in the first year of primary school. Furthermore, it was found that social competence in the preschool age is one of the preconditions of academic success in the first year of primary education. It is also mentioned that preschool education promotes positive behaviors among children and provides a more dynamic, independent and comfortable life style for them (Tudge et al. 2003). The other components which indicate the importance of preschool education are its economic and social contributions. Preschool education institutions provide equal opportunity of education and development to children from varying family backgrounds. Moreover, long-term studies about this topic show that children who take preschool education in their early years of life are more advantageous in continuing their further education and having a profession compared to the ones who do not (Seliverstova, 2006). In our country, Mother-Child Education Foundation (ACEV) conducted a three-stage scientific study called "Early Support Project" for 22 years in order to research the effects of preschool education. The first stage of the research started in 1982. Mothers and their 3 to 5 year-old children living in the suburbs of Istanbul received an education program, and the short-term effects of the program were investigated for four years. At the end of four years, the results demonstrated that the mental development and academic success of children who received either training from their mothers or institutional training was higher than the ones who did not. In 1992, the same children and their mothers were involved in a reinvestigation during the adolescence of children. The results showed that the preschool education maintained its positive effects. Finally, in 2004, measurements were made when the subjects of the study became adults. The findings of this second follow-up study indicated that children who received preschool education either at home or at school continued their education for longer years, had higher rates of admission to higher education and took more part in modern economic and social life (Kagitcibasi et al. …