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Parental Beliefs and Attitudes towards an Early Childhood Play Based Curriculum

Early childhood education programs had provided learning experiences to very young children in preparation for formal schooling. Early childhood education programs aim to provide children with the basic skills on literacy and numeracy that are crucial for formal education. At the same time, these programs provide the social, emotional and cultural interaction that children need in the course of normal development.

There are a number of early childhood education models; Montessori, Reggio-Emilia, Waldorf, Play based, and Academics Based, each with different philosophies and educational objectives but all strive to contribute to the readiness of children for formal instruction (Singer, Singer, Plaskon, & Schweder, 2003). The importance of preschool education to later academic achievement had been demonstrated in various studies such that these programs had been supported and encouraged by government agencies. In the busy life of parents, preschool gives them the time to work and not have to worry about the welfare of their children.

However, preschool has become a social pressure for parents and children alike, preschools have become too competitive that it takes out the learning and fun that children are supposed to experience. Parents ultimately choose the kind of preschool program that their child receives and the decision is influenced by a number of factors. Parents often base their decisions on their personal beliefs and needs, such as their work schedule, location of the preschool, fees, admission processes, safety, word of mouth, previous experience and others (Reay & Lucey, 2000).

With the reality of failing academic performance of the nation’s students, parents often feel the need to place their children in preschool programs that emphasize academic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic. There are also preschools that adopt a more rigorous approach to instruction and introduce concepts that are beyond the developmental stage of young children in the hope of preparing children for kindergarten.

Most educators advocate that preschools should follow developmentally appropriate practices and that it should be play based since children learn more when they are having fun and experiencing the activities concretely (McCune & Zanes, 2001). Whether parents assess the different learning models that preschools adopt or not has not been known, few researches exists on parental choices or understanding of the preschool learning curriculums. This study aims to determine how parents perceive and understand the play based curriculum of a local preschool in which their child is currently enrolled.

This study hopes to learn and gain a better understanding of the different beliefs of parents toward play based curriculum. In doing so, I hope to fill the gap on the literature on parental choice of preschools and their beliefs and attitudes towards play based curriculums. In this way, parents would be more receptive and supportive of the play based curriculum thus increasing parental involvement and leading to effective learning environments. Main Research Questions

I would like to know how parents understand the play based curriculum and whether they have favored this curriculum as a learning program for their children. I would also like to find out what are their beliefs about play based curriculum in terms of how effective or beneficial it is for their children. Lastly, I would like to know if parents have any negative perceptions about the play based curriculum and whether it has affected their involvement in their child’s learning. Parents always want the best for their children and choosing a preschool is no different.

Children have different needs and the preschool program should be able to answer those needs. Parents often choose preschools that are child-friendly, had passed safety standards, has enough learning materials and facilities and good teachers. Rarely do parents ask about the school’s curriculum or its academic offerings. Parents expect that preschools teach children basics like shapes, colors, alphabets, numbers and reading. Most preschools integrate these basic skills into their learning programs but each preschool differs in how the said skills are taught and presented to the children.

I find it important for any parent to have a good understanding of the curriculum that their child will be experiencing whether in preschool or in formal schooling. Preschools enjoy a certain amount of flexibility in how it teaches young children and different models are available, other schools integrate one or two models. When a parent knows and understands the curriculum of their child’s preschool, they become more involved in the school’s activities, they would know how to reinforce their child’s learning at home and there would be more collaboration between parents and teachers.

I also believe that parents would make better choices if they are well informed and have positive beliefs and attitudes towards the play based curriculum. Play based curriculums had been largely misperceived as not giving enough attention to skills and learning abc’s and numbers since the focus is on play and it would not be surprising if parents do share the same misperception. I think that play based curriculums had not been given justice in terms of how effective it can be for children especially that play is the venue in which children experience and learn.

This research would enable me to find answers to the questions I had proposed and to gain a better understanding of how parents think about play based curriculum. Purpose of Study In my quest for understanding the belief systems and attitudes of parents towards play based curriculum, I would be able to provide readers and the early childhood education sector with knowledge on parental beliefs towards play based curriculum, what parents expect of play based curriculums and whether they believe it is an effective program for early childhood education.

Moreover, I would be able to provide information to school administrators and teachers of play based curriculums that can be used as basis for improving their marketing and information drive as well as how to improve parent-teacher relationships and reinforce children’s learning at home. I will also be using the qualitative approach to derive answers to my research questions because beliefs, attitudes and understanding of any concept or theory is best investigated using the qualitative method.

The qualitative method provides for a more in-depth gathering of parent’s beliefs, perceptions and attitudes towards play based curriculum. Interviews using open-ended questions would elicit richer data that cannot be adequately measured by a questionnaire or survey. Motivation As a teacher-student, I am interested in how parents perceive play based curriculum and whether their decision to enroll their child in a play based curriculum is borne from their understanding of the program or from other factors.

I personally believe in the play based curriculum and I would like to find out if this is shared by the parents and what misperceptions they have of play based curriculum. I think that this study would immensely help me as a teacher and as a parent since this is the field that I would like to pursue and understanding what the curriculum is about and building realistic expectations of what the program can do for young children would engage parents and teachers alike. Keywords

Play based curriculum refers to the learning model for young children that is developmentally appropriate. The model is child-centered, indicating that the learning experiences are designed to focus on how children discover and learn. Beliefs refer to a set of ideas or thoughts that a person finds important or which that influences his and her feelings, attitudes and behavior. Beliefs are subjective and can be measured by asking participants to elucidate their thoughts on a certain topic or issue.

Attitudes refer to a social construct that is predetermined by a person’s beliefs, if the belief is negative, then the attitude toward the issue or problem is also negative. It is associated with stereotypes of what is socially acceptable or not. Feelings refer to the affective component of an individual’s belief and attitude towards a certain issue or topic. Feelings are associated with the personal experience and evaluation of the said issue. Understanding/Perception refers to the totality of the individual’s beliefs, attitudes and feelings towards a certain issue or topic.

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