What are the cognitive-linguistic skills that contribute to academic achievement in Hong Kong kindergarten children with different SES backgrounds?

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Abstract

In this presentation, three studies conducted on cognitive-linguistic skills and their relation to early academic achievement across Hong Kong Chinese-speaking kindergarten children from different socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds will be highlighted and discussed. These include different findings linked with executive functioning, cognitive-linguistic skills for early reading in Chinese (L1) and English (L2) and mathematics, and SES mediation of children’s early reading and mathematics for concurrent and longitudinal academic achievement. In one study, the associations of executive functioning, vocabulary knowledge, phonological awareness, morphological awareness, and word reading in Chinese were investigated. Eighty-five Hong Kong Chinese children were tested across both the 2nd and 3rd years of kindergarten (ages 4-5 years) on tasks of inhibitory control, working memory, vocabulary knowledge, phonological awareness, morphological awareness, and word reading. With age, vocabulary knowledge, and other cognitive-linguistic skills statistically controlled, the combination of working memory and inhibitory control together independently explained approximately 14%–16% of the variance in word reading at both ages. Furthermore, the executive functioning skills as a block contributed unique variance to word reading at Time 2, even when word reading at Time 1 was statistically controlled. Furthermore, the relationships between SES and word reading in Chinese and English with children’s cognitive-linguistic skills considered as mediators and/or moderators were studied. One hundred ninety-nine Chinese kindergarteners in Hong Kong with diverse SES backgrounds participated in this study. SES explained unique variance in English word reading even after age, phonological awareness, vocabulary knowledge and working memory were controlled. However, the effect of SES on Chinese word reading became non-significant when these control variables were included. Moreover, phonological awareness showed a full mediating effect on the relationship between SES and Chinese word reading. Both phonological awareness and vocabulary knowledge were found to partially mediate the association between SES and English word reading. In another study examined variations in the acquisition of cognitive-linguistic skills among children from low-and middle-SES backgrounds in the 2nd year of kindergarten, by examining the reading and mathematics achievement. Executive functioning, parent-child verbal interactions, phonological awareness, visual skill, Chinese and English word reading, and mathematics problems were assessed for 199 children ages 4-5 years. This study also investigated the direct and indirect contributions of executive functioning and verbal interactions to reading and mathematics. Low-SES children exhibited lower levels of cognitive and language skills, verbal interactions, and academic achievement than their middle-SES counterparts. Path analyses also revealed that executive functioning and verbal interactions made significant direct contributions to mathematics, and indirect contributions to reading through phonological awareness. Findings of these studies underscore the potential importance of executive functioning, SES inequalities, cognitive-linguistic skills for early reading and mathematics development in young children in Hong Kong. These results may have direct policy implications related to whether or not Hong Kong’s poorer children are in need of additional educational interventions in kindergarten to get a “head start” in academic achievement, and whether or not kindergartens should explicitly assess young children’s executive functioning skills and possibly provide interventions based on such assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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kindergarten child
academic achievement
social status
Hong Kong
linguistics
verbal interaction
mathematics
vocabulary
kindergarten

Citation

Chung, K. K. H. (2015, June). What are the cognitive-linguistic skills that contribute to academic achievement in Hong Kong kindergarten children with different SES backgrounds?. Paper presented at the 2015 Quality Childhood Conference International (QCCI) Enhancing Quality Childhood Education: Synergizing Global Efforts, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.