Exploring the definitions of quality early childhood programmes in a market-driven context: Case studies of two Hong Kong preschools

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Abstract

Set within the market-driven context in educare for young children in Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, this paper points to the importance of exploring the definitions of quality in early childhood programmes from the multiple perspectives of school stakeholders. This study describes two preschools that were rated highly in the quality assurance inspections. Data collected in semi-structured, individual and group interviews indicated that the views of the school stakeholders on the quality of early childhood programmes shifted from childrearing to developmental nurturing but still emphasised academic learning and preparedness. This was largely due to the 'backwash effect' of primary education creating academic pressure on the local preschools. The two case study schools formulated successful strategies for reconciling conflicts between professional values of learning through play and parental expectations of academic preparation for primary education. In addition, the schools put a lot of effort into sharpening their competitive edge. They did this by maintaining close communication with their parents through various channels and offering free after-school custodial care, emotional and financial support. These are outside the primary duties of a preschool but highlight the way in which schools in the local field address and give high priority to parents' needs and expectations. In line with Woodhead's 1998 contextually appropriate approach to quality, the study sets a challenge for our understanding of quality frameworks for early childhood programmes. These should not be based mainly on a universalist view of developmental appropriateness but should also take into account the multiplicity of stakeholders' views on quality in a market-driven context. The data also demonstrate that the provision of preschooling in Hong Kong is shaped by market forces. The implications for quality educare are discussed. Copyright © 2008 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-236
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008

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Hong Kong
childhood
market
school
stakeholder
primary education
Custodial Care
parents
Parents
Learning
Education
Financial Support
quality assurance
learning
China
Communication
Interviews
Pressure
communication
interview

Citation

Ho, C. W. D. (2008). Exploring the definitions of quality early childhood programmes in a market-driven context: Case studies of two Hong Kong preschools. International Journal of Early Years Education, 16(3), 223-236.

Keywords

  • Developmentally appropriate practice
  • Leadership
  • Market forces
  • Quality programme
  • School stakeholders