Early language development in the East Asia Pacific

Ying WANG, Nirmala RAO, Jin SUN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Aims: Early language development predicts children’s later literacy skills and school achievement. Hart and Risley (1995) estimated that by 36 months, the higher-SES children had heard 30 million more words than those lower-SES children. Compared to urban schools, rural schools might face the realities of too few resources to learn language. This paper considers language development among children ranging in aging from three to five across six countries using a larger data set on early child development. By measuring early language development and identifying disparities between groups, the study exerted a significant influence on policy making for early childhood development. Methodology: The language and emergent literacy skills of 7634 children from Cambodia (n = 1592), China (n = 1169), Mongolia (n = 1247), Papua New Guinea (n = 1744), Timor-Leste (n = 1188) and Vanuatu (n = 694) were assessed using the East Asia-Pacific Early Child Development Scales (EAP-ECDS), which is a contextually-appropriate assessment in the Region. The EAP-ECDS was developed in English but translated into the local language for administration. The internal consistency was high (above .89) for the language and emergent literacy skills in all countries. Results: In all the six countries, older children did significantly better than younger children on language and emergent literacy skills. Urban children did significantly better than the rural children in Cambodia, China, Mongolia and Timor-Leste on language and emergent literacy skills. Girls also showed significantly better performance than boys in children from Cambodia, China and Mongolia. Further, the age × urbanicity interaction was significant in Cambodia, urban children did significantly better than the rural children across all age groups, but the differences increased as children matured. Among children from Vanuatu, significant gender × urbanicity effects were found. There was no significant gender difference among urban children, but rural girls did significantly better than rural boys. Conclusion: Children’s language skills increased with age across countries. The effects of urbanicity on language development were also found in most countries, but varied in age and gender in different countries. Early childhood education should address gaps and caregivers should be provided education and support to promote children’s early language development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


Wang, Y., Rao, N., & Sun, J. (2015, June). Early language development in the East Asia Pacific. Paper presented at the 2015 Quality Childhood Conference International (QCCI) Enhancing Quality Childhood Education: Synergizing Global Efforts, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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