Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Stanford University


Research at FSI Stanford


Heart to Heart, Hand to Hand: Training Pre-school Teachers to Improve the Educational Readiness of Pre-school Age Children in Rural China

REAP Project
Ongoing

We cannot afford to postpone investing in children until they become adults, nor can we wait until they reach school age—a time when it may be too late to intervene. Learning is a dynamic process and is most effective when it begins at a young age and continues through to adulthood.

-James Heckman, Nobel laureate in economics.

Problem


Although there has been great achievement in the area of rural education in China during the past decade, rural education still faces many challenges and lags far behind education in urban areas. One of the challenges is that rural students begin primary school far behind their urban counterparts. Almost all urban children attend well-designed, high quality pre-schools. In contrast, there are few preschools in rural areas and those that do exist are generally poor in quality. Without well-designed preschool care and education, the education literature (internationally) is clear that most rural students, and most especially those that are poor, will not be “ready” to enter primary school. As a consequence, they will be behind in cognitive skills, language ability, numeracy, psychological and physical health and social behavior, and as a consequence, they will probably never be able to catch up.

If you interested in learning more about the problem of the absence and/or low quality of pre-school care and education, see Education Challenge: Early Childhood Care and Education]

Goals

Our goals in this project are twofold: a) to improve the quality (software and hardware) of preschool in rural areas in order to raise the school readiness of rural children; and b.) to help policy makers and professional educators design policies, implementation plans and infrastructure blueprints to achieve effective Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) for children in poor, rural areas. If successful, the work in this study will allow policy makers to compare the effectiveness of delivering teacher training in ECCE on the school readiness of rural children.

To meet this overall goal, we will pursue three specific objectives:

  • a) Document the nature of China’s preschool in poor rural areas, including
    • 1) how many children attend preschool and how many do not;
    • 2) the quality of preschools, including the facilities, teachers and healthcare;
  • b) Measure the educational readiness of rural children;
  • c) Test the effect of teacher training on educational readiness of rural children.

Approach

To generate believable, transparent and powerful evidence that can be used by policy makers to push those programs that work and modify or stop programs that do not, we will use a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) approach in the evaluation. In implementing the RCT, one of our main tasks is to choose the sample villages, preschools, households and children within 20 townships of Lushan County in Henan province for the baseline survey and then divide these 20 townships into the treatment group and the control group according to the baseline information.

The process for choosing the sample villages, preschools, households and children within 20 townships includes:

  • From two comprehensive listings of all children in the county—one in the local township health center in each township and one from the local police station also in each township—we made a list of all 4 year old children in the county. According to our definition, 4 year olds include all children who turned four between July 1st, 2003 and June 30th, 2004.
  • With the help of: a.) the department of education in the county; b.) education officials in the township and village leaders in the village; and c.) administrators in each pre-school in the county, we divided the list of all villages into the following five groups:
    1. those with fewer than 2 children in pre-school during the first semester of 2008;
    2. those with 3-5 children in pre-school during the first semester of 2008;
    3. those with 6-8 children in pre-school during the first semester of 2008;
    4. those with 9-12 children in pre-school during the first semester of 2008; and
    5. those with 13 or more children in pre-school during the first semester of 2008.
  • From each group of villages above (i. through v.) in the township, we randomly selected one village. Thus, we have 5 sample villages in each township. In the case of any group for which there were zero villages, we randomly chose a sample village from one of the neighbor groups.
  • We then took a random sample of children, as follows:
    1. from each randomly selected village with fewer than 2 children, age 4, in pre-school, we surveyed each 4 year old attending preschool. We also randomly selected and surveyed 2 children, age 4, from those not attending preschool;
    2. from each randomly selected village with 3-5 children, age 4, in pre-school, we randomly selected and surveyed 2 children, age 4, from those attending preschool and 1 child, age 4, from those not attending preschool;
    3. from each randomly selected village with 6-8 children, age 4, in pre-school, we randomly selected and surveyed 4 children, age 4, from those who attend preschool and 2 children, age 4, from those not attending preschool;
    4. from each randomly selected village with 9-12 children, age 4, in pre-school, we randomly selected and surveyed 6 children, age 4, from those attending preschool and 3 children, age 4, from those not attending preschool;
    5. from each randomly selected village with 13 or more children, age 4, in pre-school, we randomly selected and surveyed 8 children, age 4, from those attending preschool and 4 children, age 4, from those not attending preschool.

After randomly selecting the sample villages, preschools, households and children within the 20 townships, we conducted the baseline survey and collected a set of information from township officials, village leaders, preschool workers, households and children in Henan province. With this information we created a set of variables that can be used to describe the characteristics of each individual in the baseline survey.


Map of Lushan County in Henan Province in China

Finally, we randomly divided 20 townships into two groups, with 10 townships as the treatment group and the other 10 townships as the control group. We checked to make sure that the observed variables of the randomly selected treatment group and the control group are, on average, identical. That is, the two groups are ‘balanced’ prior to the intervention.

Treatment group

Teachers from the preschools of 10 townships, randomly selected from poor areas of Henan province in rural China, will receive an intensive training course on the care and education of young children. The training will cover what is appropriate curriculum, child-teacher interaction, daily care, etc.

Control group

In order to establish the baseline against which the results from the treatment groups can be judged, we randomly selected 10 additional townships. The control group consists of pre-schools NOT receiving teacher training (or any other REAP “treatment”).

This research design will allow us to be able to compare the effectiveness of the training treatment against the “do nothing” control group.

The RCT control and treatment townships in Lushan county. [1 = means in the treatment group , 0 means in the control group]
 

The main characteristics of the control and treatment townships in Lushan county

variables
treatment=0
treatment=1
P-value of mean
comparison test
Number Villages in township
26.9
24.3
0.6841
Population of township
36438
34048
0.7862
Per capita income
2187
1958
0.2786
Per capita cultivated land
0.59
0.47
0.3754
Migrant off-farm labor
5051
5699
0.8178
Number of kindergartens
3.2
2.8
0.7951
Number of private kindergartens
2.7
2.6
0.9513
Number of preschools
11.8
10.9
0.7758
Number of ECCE teachers
26
32
0.6471
Number of children aged 0-6
3321
2742
0.4580
Number of children who attend
kindergarten or preschool
614
587
0.8710
Number of children aged 4
427
400
0.7469
Number of sample children
23.7
25.8
0.4296
Have teacher training or not
0.3
0.5
0.3880
Have health work training or not
0.2
0.3
0.6278
Have parents training or not
0.2
0.1
0.5560
 

The main characteristic of preschools in control and treatment townships in Lushan County

Variables
treatment=0
treatment=1
P-value of mean
comparison test
Land area of preschool or
kindergarten
850
1032
0.5904
Construct area of preschool or
kindergarten
252
201
0.4395
Green area of preschool or
kindergarten
49
35
0.5681
Have sand bunker or not
0.1
0.2
0.3396
Have playground or not
0.2
0.2
0.8898
Have animal area or not
0.0
0.0
0.7836
Have plant area or not
0.2
0.1
0.6053
Have manager office or not
0.5
0.5
0.8891
Have teacher office or not
0.3
0.3
0.9110
Have sanitation or not
0.1
0.0
0.6023
Have kitchen or not
0.4
0.3
0.4807
Teachers with early child education
major
0.4
0.6
0.4407
Teachers who graduated from
academy school or university
0.6
0.4
0.5489
Numbers of tools
148
151
0.9518
 

The main characteristics of households in control and treatment townships in Lushan County

Variables
age
Edu
asset
treatment=0
41.1
1.6
3.5
treatment=1
42.1
1.7
3.5
P-Value
0.3809
0.5258
0.8368
 

The main characteristics of children in control and treatment townships in RCT county

Variables
Height of
children
Weight of
children
Chest
circumference
Head
circumference
Test score
treatment=0
105.9
16.0
54.8
50.8
64.2
treatment=1
105.8
15.9
54.4
50.6
64.4
P-value
0.7987
0.6174
0.2066
0.2573
0.9515

 

Implementation: Plan International

Founded over 70 years ago, Plan International is one of the oldest and largest international development agencies in the world. Plan International works in 49 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and directly supports more than 1,500,000 children and their families. Plan works to achieve lasting improvements for children living in poverty in developing countries. For more detail information, see http://www.plan-international.org.cn

Evaluation


Baseline


REAP will document the baseline at several levels, including township, village, pre-school, teacher, household and of the children. First, we will conduct a baseline survey to collect the socio-economic and other information about preschool education in the treatment and control townships and villages.


Second, REAP will randomly select 256 four-year old children from 50 villages within the 10 randomly selected ‘treatment’ townships and 246 four-year old children from 50 villages within the 10 randomly selected ‘control’ townships. The children will be chosen from among those attending a pre-school. Those chosen for the ‘treatment’ and ‘control’ townships, respectively, will be considered a representative sample of the children attending a pre-school center.


For each child selected, we have done the following things in the baseline survey:

  • Test her/his physical readiness, emotional maturity, social competence, cognitive readiness and communicative competence.

  • Survey of the characteristics of her/his family and household.

  • Survey of the school manager and of the teachers to document the quality of preschool services in the sample townships.

The photo below shows some of our testing of the 4 year olds. If you want to see more, please click to see a slide show [LINK].

Copies of the surveys in English and Chinese are available in the Survey and Data section of the website.

Post-treatment

REAP will follow up after 12 months and periodically in the years thereafter (as funding allows) to examine the status of students in the treatment and control groups, in the cognitive, physical, psychological and socioeconomic dimensions recorded at baseline.

Results

On-going project

Funding

Nokia group; for more details, please visit: http://www.nokia.com