A global literature search on early childhood development reveals that numerous studies and academic papers have focused on the macro, meso and micro factors deemed necessary for an effective Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme. The literature has also confirmed and presented evidence which supports the benefits and outcomes of ECD programmes. Furthermore, the limitations, challenges and prevailing weak social and economic dimensions have also been identified and explained which negate the effectiveness of these ECD programmes. No literature could be traced on the positive and negative impact or influence of preschool learners who attend an ECD programme on the immediate family and/or household.
The research study attempted to conduct an exploratory type of research to evaluate the impact of a selected ECD centre, commonly referred to as a crèche or nursery school, on the immediate families and households of the preschool learners who attended and completed the ECD programme offered at this ECD centre.
The ECD centre is located in the village of Prince Alfred Hamlet within the municipal jurisdiction of Witzenberg Municipality, Western Cape Province, South Africa. The village is a sub-economic rural town with the majority of the population employed as seasonal farm workers within the indigent economic category. The ECD centre was established 10 years ago with an annual enrolment target ranging between 75–150 learners. The age of the learners who enter the pre-reception level varies between eighteen months to five years.
The ECD programme offered by the selected ECD centre served as the single case for this research study. The study falls within an interpretivist paradigm with an exploratory research design through the adoption of qualitative research methods.
The target population included the Grade 7 learners who were registered at the primary school – also referred to as the receiving school – and who attended the selected ECD centre. The learners, purposively selected, attained Grade 6 in the required minimum academic period. The parents or guardians of the target population were also identified as a second participant grouping.
Arising from the analysis of the literature analysis, four primary constructs were identified and defined for the two focus group sessions which provided the premise for the design and development of the research data collection guidelines. The four primary constructs were:
- Social Development;
- Cognitive Development;
- Social Family Structure/Function; and
- Social Interpersonal Relationships.
A qualitative thematic framework was developed to structure the narrative analysis so that the personal experiences of the learners and parents/guardians could be interpreted according to the functional analysis procedure that observed their actual story. To ensure thematic analysis of the learner and parent/guardian narratives was conducted systematically and consistently, one researcher who was not part of the data collection procedure, analysed the narratives resulting in intra-coder reliability and stability from which valid inferences could be made.
The learners' bias was on the family structure/function and interpersonal themes and associated sub-themes when asked to prioritise and rank, rather than on the family domestic challenges such as causes of conflict and anti-social behaviour which were beyond their control. In their individual development ranking, a strong indication was detected that they were not comfortable with these occurrences. The parents/guardians who participated were all female and aligned towards cognitive development and its accumulated benefits with social development also scoring very high which included family socialisation and communication manifested in discipline and adaptive behaviour at home.
As an exploratory type of research, it may be concluded that the research study achieved its aim, however, the actual impact, positive or negative on each sub-theme was not determined due to the complexity and nature of the research. The thematic framework provided a good premise to measure, qualitatively, the perception and degree of importance within the family context but could not identify the manifestations or recorded events which could be linked or ascribed to the influence of the selected ECD centre.