THE SOCIAL ADJUSTMENT OF GRADE 1 PUPILS: A CASE STUDY OF SIPHOFANENI AND DUZE PRIMARY SCHOOLS
M. M. Keregero and L. S. Simelane,
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Swaziland
Presently, there is an on-going debate concerning the benefits of pre-school or childhood education in Swaziland. A study was undertaken to compare the level of social development of grade one pupils who attended to pre-school (PAPS) and those who did not (PNAPS). The sample population consisted of 91 grade one pupils from Siphofaneni and Duze Primary Schools who enrolled in January 1997.
The study was descriptive correlational employing interview schedules and questionnaires. Content validity of the instrument was established by a panel of experts that included pre-school inspectors and lecturers from the University of Swaziland, Luyengo. A KR reliability coefficients of 0.83 was obtained with regard to the internal consistency of the interview schedule and 0.91 for the questionnaire. Data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) to establish means, frequencies, standard deviations, F probability and correlations.
The findings indicated that out of the 44 statements, there were significant differences between PAPS and PNAPS in the following 3 statements: "the child cries easily" (p < 0.002) and "I like teasing other children" (p < 0.038) in favour of the PNAPS and "the child is always quiet" (p < 0.038) in favour of the PAPS . It was concluded that pre-school experience does not make any significant difference in the social development of grade one pupils. There was no relationship between sex, age and pre-school experience of grade one pupils and their level of social development.
Pre-schools have existed for years in some parts of Swaziland, however, there are still some areas without pre-schools. For this reason, many children begin their primary school without attending pre-school. In addition, it is not compulsory that a child should have gone through pre-school before being enrolled in a primary school (Swaziland Ministry of Education, 1985). Nevertheless, some primary school head teachers give preference to children who have gone through pre-school for admission into grade one, while others do not. This might be the reason why some parents do not enroll their children to pre-school even if they have one in their area. In Swaziland, the duration of primary school is seven years (Grades 1 to 7) and it caters for children between 6 to 13 years (Swaziland Ministry of Education, 1985). Pupils in primary school are only allowed to repeat a class once.
Pre-school education is supposed to provide care and supervision for children age 3 to 5 years and prepare them for primary school by providing a stimulating environment in a formal classroom setting (Ministry of Economic Planning and Development 1994/95 - 1996/97; The Encyclopaedia Americana, 1978). The traditional kindergarten emphasizes learning through play (Cantwell and Grandjean, 1977) which contributes to the emotional and intellectual development of children. Pre-school may be profitably used to build the childs readiness for formal school work without any loss of social learning. Since, so much of the childs psychological development has occurred before the first grade, it seems to be obvious that the schools concern for children ought to begin long before school entrance (Blair et al., 1971). Through sympathetic and skilled supervision in pre-school, the children may make great educational progress before the age of five (Lillis, 1985). Pre-school is concerned with building a background of experiences to promote the later attainment of academic skills as well as with personal development and building positive attitudes towards learning capability and practical skills (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991).
Many traditional and contemporary educators have asserted that early childhood education consists not only of experiences outside the home but also of rich experiences within the home. Perhaps, a combination of rich experiences in both places would be ideal (Claudia and Loa, 1977). According to Moore et al. (1972) and Moore and Moore ( 1973), there are those who strongly advocate the home as the only centre of education for the young child. Following this school of thought, some parents find it a waste of money to send a child to pre-school. By so doing, they deprive the child of the rich experiences which they would have gained in pre-school and made him or her adjust well in grade one.
Pre-school programmes have been found to produce long-term, although not permanent, increase in functioning among low income children and improve their ability to meet the minimum requirements of the school they enter (Lazar and Darlington, 1978). Carefully planned pre-school programmes aim not only toward intellectual achievement but also toward the development of well-balanced and competent personalities. The most functional goal for early childhood education is its impact in shaping the childs affective development (Brophy et al., 1975).
In psychology theory, social development is also referred to as social learning. This is the learning of behaviour that is controlled by environmental influences rather than by innate or internal forces (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991). According to Albert Bandura, the leading exponent of the concept of social learning, when children watch others they learn many forms of behaviour, such as sharing, aggression, cooperation, social interaction, and delay of gratification. Following Banduras studies, psychologists found that social learning based on observation is a complex process that involves three stages: exposure to others responses; acquisition of what an individual sees; and subsequent acceptance as guide for ones own behaviour (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991). The child should not present discipline problems if his/her psychological needs are satisfied, limits to acceptable behaviour are set and the rules and standards he/she has to meet are fair.
While some aggressiveness is a desirable development in children, it can become a disintegrative emotion when it is not properly controlled. High amount of aggression in children may be indicative that there has been a failure to learn adaptive forms of behaviour in reaction to anger- producing stimuli (Blair et al., 1971). Timid and shy children tend to find the social and emotional environment of school a great trial (Siain and Ugwuegbu, 1988). The children may feel inadequate and inferior, may be shy and solitary as compared with other children. In addition, such children may attract bullying and may miss a great deal of school because they may feign illness in order to avoid going to school. They tend to day dream excessively and often develop into socially ineffective and unhappy adults (Blair et al., 1971).
Social influence operates in learning situations, therefore, the learner should not be looked upon as a detached individual in a social void (McFarland, 1972). Mzileni (1995) observed that childrens natural interests are in themselves, so they need to learn to live with others. Since opportunities for learning through discovery are provided at pre-school, it has a special role to play in the childs social development (Mzileni, 1995). Social abilities include: getting and maintaining the attention of adults in a socially acceptable way; using adults as resource; expressing both affection and hostility to adults and peers; leading and following peers; competing with peers; showing pride in ones accomplishments; and involving oneself in adult role play behaviour or expressing desire to grow up (Brophy et al., 1975 : 48).
The experience of entering the first grade of primary school is an important one for the child. It means leaving his familiar home and depending on adults, who are not his parents. It challenges the child to find himself a place in a group of other children of about his own age. The environment might be totally new to the child depending on his past experiences. The classroom setting may be new, toilet arrangement may be different from what the child is familiar with, and the play area may be strange. The child faces two major tasks in entering school. Firstly, he must go out to meet a new experience, rich with possibilities of growth and social contacts, but full of unknown to him, and secondly, and more significantly the child faces what is inherent in growth itself (Galloway et al., 1982)
Children react differently to their new environment when entering first grade and often have great difficulties adjusting to it. According to Read (1976), for the child, new experiences call forth defence, tendencies to retreat, or, on the other hand, to explore and find satisfaction. Phillips (1986) advocates that each child adapts to a new environment according to his or her innate abilities, personal style, and the help of parents, siblings, teachers, and friends. Children who cannot adjust well may be evident by greater dependancy, increase irritability, frightened, lack of activity, aggressive and disruptive behaviours (Read, 1976). Adaptive behaviour may be described as being cooperative, involved in play and task behaviour. Each child brings to a new experience his own past experiences, and adjustment problems constitute a very serious source of difficulty in learning (Blair et al., 1971).
Development of a young child is a continuous process which is influenced by all events of his/her experiences, early education can, therefore, be a tool of responding to critical development needs of the child (Brophy et al., 1975). In addition, education is a process which changes the learner (Bloom et al., 1971). For this reason, each programme, course and unit of education is expected to bring about changes in the learner such that they would be different at the end of each unit from what they were before, and from those who have not done the unit.
However, the tendency on the part of many to think of pre-school education in a formal sense is misguided. The true purpose of early childhood education is to complement and extend the pattern of informal education that is being provided at home. Its role is to anticipate the work and aims of primary school by teaching basic educational skills such as reading, writing and manipulation of numbers (Otaala, 1990). Therefore, it should be considered as priority in the education of the child because it is a worthwhile experience for him/her (Otaala, 1990). Early childhood educational experience does not only facilitate the childs cognitive dimension but also his physical, social, emotional and aesthetic dimensions (Bloom et al., 1971). The patterns of growth, learning and adjustment established in childhood reach into the future and influence the entire course of the childs life (Blair et al., 1971). The childs experiences at school, home and the larger community during these formative years, will determine, for instance, whether he will be a fearful child or confident in himself, or whether he will be tolerant or intolerant toward others.
There is a continuing support for pre-school education particularly for disadvantaged children. Early educational experiences have been found to be particularly important for children growing up in an atmosphere of poverty. These children are in dire need of preparation for entry into primary school (Todd and Helen, 1977). Enrolment in pre-school programmes introduces children to the modes of social behaviour that will be required in later learning situations and prepares them to be receptive to new concepts they will encounter. Children who have attended pre-school will gain from the experience because participation in pre-school group activities develop self-confidence and favourable stance toward group experience in a school later, and will result in "a net gain in years of education" (Todd and Helen, 1977). Children from poor homes usually do not get quantity and quality stimulation needed for optimal cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development because of limited resources available (Klausmeier, 1971). Whereas, lower class parents do not place the same value that middle class parents do on the education of their children ( Ausbel and Robinson, 1971). However, the plight of a child who is low in both academic ability and socio-economic status is extreme. Such a child falls in the cell of double jeopardy, his chance of attaining success and contentment at school are tragically slim (Klausmeier, 1971).
PROBLEM OF THE STUDY
Since pre-schooling has not been made a pre-requisite for children to enrol in grade one in Swaziland, it is possible that a grade one class may consist of two groups of pupils: those who attended to pre-school and those who did not. The question that may then arise is: Which group of pupils are able to adjust better or have a higher level of social development? The most plausible answer might be that, since experience is the best teacher, the pupils who have attended pre-school should have a higher level of social development because they have learnt desirable behaviours in pre-school. In addition, they have been exposed to experiences outside the home so they are expected to adjust better. However, is that really the case ?
The study explored the questions: What is the level of social development for grade one pupils? What is the relationship between level of social development and the pupils demographic characteristics such as sex, age and pre-school experience ? Specifically, the study aimed at:
(a) Describing the level of social development for the Grade 1 pupils who attended pre- school (PAPS) and those who did not (PNAPS).
(b) Determining the significant difference between PAPS and PNAPS and their level of social development .
(c) Determining the relationship between the pupils sex, age, pre-school experience and their level of social development.
The study was a descriptive correlational employing interview schedule and self-administered questionnaire for data collection. The interview schedule for pupils and the questionnaires for teachers were formulated with guidance from literature. The instrument was validated by a pre-school inspector and six research experts at the University of Swaziland, and was pilot tested using grade one pupils and teachers apart from the those selected for the study. The Kuder Richardson (KR-21) formula was used to determine the internal consistency of the instrument, and overall reliability coefficients 0.83 for the interview schedule and 0.91 for the questionnaire were obtained.
The target population for the study were grade one pupils for the year 1997. Stratified sampling was done to select two primary schools, namely Siphofaneni and Duze Primary Schools in the Lubombo Region. The two schools were selected on the basis of convenience. In each of the schools, the Grade 1A class was selected and all the pupils were included in the study except those who were absent on the day of the interview. Thus, a total of 91 grade one pupils were included in the sample.
Data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). Means and standard deviation were used to describe the level of social development of grade one pupils who attended pre-school and those who did not. The one-way ANOVA was used to determine the statistical significance in the level of social development between PAPS and PNAPS. Correlations were used to compare the relationship between respondents pre-school experience, age, sex and their level of social development.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
Pupils Level of Social Development
Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with respect to statements that were deemed to reflect factors indicating the level of social development. The pupils and teachers responses on the selected items were rated on a seven-point Likert-type scale whereby: 1 = Strongly disagree; 2 = Disagree; 3 = Slightly disagree; 4 = Neutral; 5 = Slightly agree; 6 = Agree; 7 = Strongly agree.
For purposes of data interpretation, mean values of 4 and above were considered as implying high level of agreement with statements indicating social development. Mean values of 3.99 and below, however, were regarded as implying low level of agreement. A standard deviation greater than 1 was taken to be indicative of a huge variability among responses. The data were analysed in the context of the following domains: level of social development by peer relationship; relationship with teacher; timidity and shyness; sharing; exaggerated fears; confidence; aggression; and attitude toward school.
A. Peer Relationship
Table 1 shows that the PAPS have an overall mean values of 5.02 which indicate that for the domain "peer relationship", they have better relationship with their peers compared to PNAPS ( mean values of 4.84). According to Read (1976), play is at the heart of pre-school experience and that it makes a major contribution to social development. Children with pre-school experience have had social contacts with many children before, therefore they are at an advantage when they enrol in grade one. Leaving a familiar environment for a new one, brings a great challenge for the children and it is only those who are confident in themselves who are likely to be accepted as friends by others (Galloway et al., 1982). The lowest mean values for both groups (2.43 for PAPS and 1.84 for PNAPS) are for the statement "both boys and girls are my friends", an indication that respondents from both groups prefer to have friends of the same sex. Pupils at primary school level are more aware of their sex differences (Menlove, 1982), therefore boys befriend boys and girls befriend girls only.The older the child the more important do peer relationships become and the younger the child the more likely he will accept authority (Siain and Ugwuegbu, 1988).
There was no significant difference between PAPS and PNAPS in their level of social development related to peer relationship (Table 1). This finding seems to be inconsistent with available research evidence which indicates that PAPS should be more socially developed and hence better adjusted than PNAPS (Kakvoulis, 1994). Many social and emotional factors directly influence the childs general level of competency. Brophy et al. (1975), observed that if a child feels good about himself, he believes he is capable of achieving, if he gets along with his peers and has reasonable expectation of success, then his cognitive potential can be realized. This finding implies that besides pre-school, there could be other contributing factors to pupils social adjustment in Grade 1, including the fact that most of them only spend one year at pre-school. Perhaps, too short for any observable change to have occurred.
Table 1: Pupils Level of Social Development and Significant Difference in Level of Social Development by Peer Relationship Between PAPS and PNAPS
B. Relationship with Teacher
The findings in Table 2 show that both PAPS and PNAPS have a high level of social development as far as relationship with their teacher is concerned. However, PAPS (overall mean 5.84) had a slight edge over PNAPS (overall mean 5.64). This difference may be attributed to PAPS previous experience of developing a relationship with their teachers at pre-school which enables them to meet their new experience with confidence (Phillips, 1986). This finding is consistent with available research evidence which indicates that younger children are more likely to accept authority, either because it is inconvenient not to do so, or he/she wishes the authority figure to like him/her (Siain and Ugwuegbu, 1988). According to Menlove (1978), the five-year olds are more cooperative, social, and conform to adult ideas.
There was no significant difference between PAPS and PNAPS in their level of social development concerning relationship with their teacher (Table 2). This finding appears to be contradictory to available research evidence which indicates that the most functional goal for early childhood education is its impact in shaping the childs affective development (Brophy et al., 1975). Seemingly, pre-school education in Swaziland does not make any difference in the childs level of social development.
Table 2: Pupils Level of Social Development and Significant Difference in Level of Social Development By Relationship With Teacher Between PAPS and PNAPS
Keys: (a) PAPS = Pupils who attended pre-school.
C. Timidity and Shyness
Both PAPS and PNAPS showed relatively low level of timidity and shyness, however, PAPS (overall mean 3.45) showed a slightly higher level of timidity and shyness compared to PNAPS (overall mean 2.99) (Table 3). The finding generally implies that grade one pupils are not timid and shy, a sign of being socially developed. However, the finding that PAPS were slightly more timid and shy than PNAPS is contrary to previous research evidence which indicates that pre-school facilitates the childs social dimension (Otaala, 1990).
Table 3 shows that there was a statistical significant difference (0.038) at p < 0.05 between PAPS and PNAPS in level of social development concerning quietness. The finding suggests that PAPS tended to be quieter than PNAPS which gives a negative picture of the pre-school. The finding is inconsistent with Reads (1976) observation that since play is at the heart of pre-school, it makes a major impact on the social and emotional development of the child. Thus, children with pre-school experience are supposed to be sociable. Since they are not, it may be assumed that the pre-schools they attended did not provide them with adequate experience which would have impacted on their social and emotional development or the time spent at the pre-schools was too short to have made any significant difference.
Table 3: Pupils Level of Social Development and Significant Difference in Level of Social Development By Timidity and Shyness Between PAPS and PNAPS
Keys: (a) PAPS = Pupils who attended pre-school.
Table 4 shows that both PAPS (overall mean 4.30) and PNAPS (overall mean 4.38) showed high level of social development concerning sharing. However, PAPSs level of social development related to sharing is slightly lower than PNAPS. Noteworthy is that, although overall, the respondents showed a high level of social development in this domain, their mean values for the items "the child is always willing to help others" (3.05 for PAPS and 3.26 for PNAPS) and "the child shares own things with others" (3.41 for PAPS and 3.32 for PNAPS) indicated generally low level of social development. The PAPS manifested a relatively higher level of ability to share compared to PNAPS. The finding implies that experience, such as attending pre-school, makes a person different from another who had not had the same experience (Bloom et al., 1971).
The findings further show that there was no significant difference between the PAPS and PNAPS in their level of social development related to sharing (Table 4). Other factors such as the respondents age may be the cause of such an outcome. Considering that the respondents were between the age of 4 to 9 years, they were more interested in themselves than in others ( Mzileni, 1995).
Table 4: Pupils Level of Social Development and Significant Difference in Level of Social Development By Sharing Between PAPS and PNAPS
Keys: (a) PAPS = Pupils who went to pre-school.
E. Exaggerated Fear
The findings pertaining to the level of social development concerning exaggerated fears are presented in Table 5. The means of the responses ranged from 2.05 to 3.35 with an overall mean value of 2.70 for the PAPS and 1.69 to 3.03 with an overall mean value of 2.57 for the PNAPS. The findings reveal that the respondents in both groups generally have low level of exaggerated fear implying that they are socially developed (Read, 1976). Children who are socially developed are not supposed to be unnecessarily frightened (Bronfenbrener, 1972). However, the PAPS showed slightly higher level of exaggerated fear than the PNAPS which is contrary to the widely held belief that pre-school educations main purpose is to prepare children socially (Lillis, 1985).
Table 5 shows that there was a significant difference (0.002*) between the PAPS and PNAPS in their level of social development related to the statement "the child cries easily". The findings reveal that the PAPS tended to cry easily, an indication that their level of social development related to exaggerated fear was low. The finding was contrary to expectation because attendance in pre-school is supposed to build a good personality in children (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1991)
Table 5: Pupils Level of Social Development and Significant Difference of Level of Social Development By Exaggerated Fear Between PAPS and PNAPS
Keys: (a) PAPS = Pupils who attended pre-school.
Table 6 presents data on respondents level of social development related to confidence. The means of responses ranged from 3.35 to 5.66 with an overall mean of 4.30 for the PAPS , and 3.59 to 5.67 with an overall mean of 4.19 for the PNAPS. The findings indicate that generally both groups had high level of social development pertaining to confidence, however, the PAPS showed a slight edge over the PNAPS. The finding is consistent with Reads (1976) argument that some children on leaving pre-school for the primary school meet new experiences with confidence while others with limited confidence, and others are disturbed by the slightest departure from the familiar. Confidence is an essential attribute to develop in children at an early age because confident children do not feel helpless, have less dependency and do not feel threatened by adults (Read, 1976). In addition, the more confident the child is of him/herself the more likelihood it is for him/her to be liked by others.
There was no significant difference ( p < 0.05) between the PAPS and PNAPS in their level of social development related to confidence (Table 6). The finding was unexpected. Perhaps, the pre-schools which the children attended did not provide them the experiences conducive to confident-building or the time they spent at the pre-school was too short to have made any impact in their social development.
Table 6: Pupils Level of Social Development and Significant Difference in Level of Social Development By Confidence Between PAPS and PNAPS
Keys: (a) PAPS = Pupils who attended pre-school.
The findings pertaining to the respondents level of social development related to aggression are summarized in Table 7. The means of the responses ranged from 1.97 to 5.66 with overall means of 3.14 for the PAPS, and 2.59 to 5.67 with overall means of 3.23 for the PNAPS. The findings indicate that, generally, the respondents had low level of aggression, although the PNAPS showed slightly higher level compared to the PAPS. This meant that the respondents were successful in learning adaptive behaviours (Blair et al., 1971), an indication that they have socially adjusted. Noteworthy is that although respondents from both groups indicated a relatively low level of aggression, boys and girls get angry easily with boys (means of 5.66 for the PAPS and 5.67 for the PNAPS). According to Bronfenbrener (1972), boys are more aggressive most of the time and they like provoking so their peers tend to get angry with them.
Table 7 shows that there was a significant difference (0.038*) between the PAPS and PNAPS in their level of social development pertaining to the statement "I like teasing other children". The findings reveal that the PNAPS tend to tease other children more than the PAPS. This means that the PNAPS have not learnt adaptive behaviours as well as the PAPS (Blair et al., 1971).
Table 7: Pupils Level of Social Development and Significant Difference in Level of Social Development By Aggression Between PAPS and PNAPS
Keys: (a) PAPS = Pupils who attended pre-school.
H. Attitude Toward School
Findings on the level of social development related to attitude toward school are presented in Table 8. They show that the means range from 2.12 to 6.58 with overall means of 4.52 for the PAPS and 2.09 to 6.32 with overall means of 4.42 for the PNAPS. The findings reveal that respondents from both groups have good attitude toward school. This is consistent with the respondents high level of social development related to timidity and shyness. As observed by Siain and Ugwuegbu (1988), timid and shy children are likely to have bad attitude toward school.
Table 8 shows no significant difference (p < 0.05) between PAPS and PNAPS in their attitude toward school. Since pre-school is concerned with both personality development and building positive attitude toward learning (Lillis, 1985), one could assume that the good attitude shown by the PAPS was due to their pre-school experience. However, it is not so easy to explain in the case of the PNAPS.
Table 8: Level of Social Development and Significant Difference in Level of Social Development By Attitude Toward School Between PAPS and PNAPS
Keys: (a) PAPS = Pupils who attended pre-school
Relationship between Selected Demographic Characteristics of the Respondents and Their Level of Social Development
In order to establish the degree of relationship between sex, age and pre-school experience and level of social development of respondents, Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficients (r) were used. To describe the degree of association, Davis (1971) scale was used as given below:
The findings as shown in Table 9, reveal a negligible to low association between the sex, age and pre-school experience of respondents and their level of social development in terms of:
(A) Peer relationship.
These findings generally imply that there was no relationship between sex, age and pre-school experience of respondents and their level of social development.
Table 9: Relationship between Sex, Age and Pre-school Experience of Respondents and Their Level of Social Development
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Both the PAPS and PNAPS were socially developed at a relatively same level. They were found to have good peer relationship, good relationship with their teacher, low level of timidity and shyness, good at sharing, low exaggerated fear, confident, low aggression and good attitude toward school. Out of the 44 measures of social development only 3 showed significant difference between the pupils who attended pre-school and those who did not. These pertained to: "the child is always quiet" in the timidity and shyness domain; "the child cries easily" in the exaggerated fear domain and "I like teasing other children" in the aggression domain. Thus, the level of social development of grade one pupils did not vary with their exposure to pre-school education. There was no relationship between sex, age and pre-school experience of grade one pupils and their level of social development.
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