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Is whole-day kindergarten better than half-day kindergarten? A mixed methods study of Chinese educators' perceptions

Michelle Marie Lau and Hui Li

Children and Youth Services Review, 2018, vol. 93, issue C, 365-377

Abstract: Decades of research in the West cannot determine whether the whole-day or half-day kindergarten program is more beneficial to children's development. In Hong Kong, despite strong public demand for the whole-day program, mixed research findings have led the government to support the half-day program only. As a supplement to a large-scale 2-year longitudinal study, this mixed methods study adopted Donabedian's (2003) approach to explore this complex social-educational issue with reference to Hong Kong-Chinese educators' perceptions of the whole-day kindergarten program. The authors surveyed 180 kindergarten educators from 15 randomly sampled kindergartens and conducted interviews with 30 of these educators one year later. The results showed that the whole-day program allowed for structural, curricular, and pedagogical improvement, enhanced children's development, and eased families' childcare concerns. The disadvantages, however, were reduced parent–child time and heavier tuition fees. The findings imply that no “best” program exists, only a better program “fit.” Program selection should reflect family preferences and needs while ensuring high-quality learning opportunities and active parental involvement. The whole-day program is recommended for families that lack a stimulating home environment and childcare resources; the half-day program might be a better fit for financially able families with adequate childcare resources. The authors argue that the supply and affordability of the free whole-day program should better match the needs of families.

Date: 2018
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