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Parental involvement in early childhood learning: Douala, Littoral Region, Cameroon

This thesis considers the significance of parental involvement in early childhood learning from a sociological, sociocultural and African perspective, which all emphasise the role of the home, community and early learning institutions in children’s learning and development. An interpretive paradigm was used to explore parents’ and teachers’ perspectives about parents’ involvement in children’s education in a public and private nursery school in Douala, Cameroon. Data were collected through a mixed-method approach, including questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, observations, document portfolio analysis, informal conversations, Zoom, and WhatsApp messages. Questionnaires were developed for all parents in each nursery school. In addition, eight parents and four teachers in each school were interviewed using semi-structured and open-ended questions. Two weeks of observations were made per nursery school. Following face-to-face data collection, participants were contacted via WhatsApp to obtain additional information and clarify ideas. Analysis revealed two types of parental involvement, home-based and school-based parental involvement. Home-based parental involvement included parental engagement of children in day-to-day home activities to develop their independence skills and responsibility, assisting children to complete homework, and providing educational resources to support school-based learning. School-based involvement was higher with private nursery school families. The private nursery school families attended several events run by the school and parents’ input was welcomed and valued through the parent-led forum. Contrastingly, the public nursery school administration offered limited opportunities for parents to participate in school-based activities. Further, due to large class sizes, communication with parents appeared to be one-way; in most cases, parents were responsible for initiating contact. Therefore, parents had limited chances to contribute to the teaching and learning process at school. Teachers of both nursery schools placed little value on the role of parents and other caregivers in supporting and supervising children’s learning and participation in the day-to-day activities of the home and therefore missed the opportunity to draw on home-based resources to incorporate this into classroom activities. Discussing the study findings in relation to the sociocultural and African concepts of child development led to an understanding of the different roles played by all agents involved in child development and learning (family, extended family, community, school and the Government) and how they can partner to enhance children’s learning experiences and wellbeing. It was also noted that the education system propagated more of the colonial culture and language, with little emphasis on indigenous forms of learning. Furthermore, the public nursery school faced challenges in implementing the curriculum goals and objectives. These challenges included large class sizes, higher child-teacher ratios, inadequate learning and teaching materials, and limited study space. The study recommends a culturally inclusive education framework incorporating children’s everyday experiences and practices into the nursery school curriculum to enhance children’s learning experiences. This implies educators working in partnership with families to integrate family resources into institutional learning programmes, creating a connection between children’s home learning experiences and school-based learning. Furthermore, policies to increase funding for nursery school education will help to provide access to quality early education for all children.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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