Exploring the readiness of teachers for language and communication development in preschool
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Teachers are the most influential persons for a child for whom teachers create the social context of learning. Teachers' contribution is part and parcel of children's life. Teachers provide the scaffolding for social interaction and learning at school; they foster child's development to ensure its persistence all through life (Riddle, 1999). To assist children's development, teachers need to have appropriate and adequate skills, patience and enthusiasm for interacting and dealing with children. Teacher's support and love can make a huge difference to the life of children (Hanson, 2012). They can significantly promote and stimulate the development of communication and language through different activities that help prepare children for interaction with society (Brock & Rankin, 2008). During the preschool years, language develops far more rapidly than at any other time. Children use language in different contexts according to the social and cultural needs. Children's language ability affects learning and development in all areas of a child's development, because this developmental domain crosscuts other domains; e.g. cognitive development, which involves language, imagination, thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and memory (Becky, 2012). Teachers in Bangladesh are routinely trained by different private and public institutions on different dimensions of pedagogy and early childhood development (Directorate of Primary Education, 2012). Whether this training prepares teachers adequately with necessary knowledge, skill, positive attitude and resources to facilitate language and communication development of young children is debatable. Considering a few unanswered question that arise from the existing situation in Bangladesh this study attempted to explore the readiness of the preschool teachers for language and communication development in preschool. The study looks into the components of current practices, perceptions and challenges of preschooI teachers in teaching language and communication. In this study preschool teacher readiness has been explored by comparing with a set of acceptable standard practices constructed from global, regional and national level practices derived from relevant literature review. Thus, the main purpose of this study was to explore the readiness of the preschool teachers for language and communication development of preschool children in terms of standard practices in this respect. This study used qualitative approach with an explorative study design in order to formulate a description of the issue and obtain a picture of the situation. The population of this study was preschool teachers of Dhaka city. Three government and three NGO (Non Government Organization) preschool teachers were sampled purposively as research participants. Two data collection instruments were used; i.e. i) an in-depth interview (IDI) questionnaire for interviewing teachers and ii) observation guideline to observe classroom situation. Data were managed in Atlas ti 5.2 and later analyzed using content analysis method. Results from the analysis revealed that it is common for all teachers from allthe preschool classes sampled to exercise listening, speaking, reading and writing practices through different kinds of play, rhymes, song, storytelling, reading and writing activities. Among allthese practices, listening and speaking were found to be consistent with the acceptable standard practices that were listed in this study form literature review (vide supra). Play was identified as a valuable activity for language development, because of its multifaceted quality that provides opportunities for talking, listening, thinking and socializing. However, a minimum level of scaffolding by the teachers was found during play. With regards to reading and writing practices, teachers considered the scope to be restricted to learning and practicing alphabet, numbers and words. In general writing practices fairly matched the standard practices, with the exception of the prewriting activities, where it was mostly absent in preschools despite its mandatory. Where it was mostly of the preschools have missed despite the requirement according to the listed standard practices. Reading practices also do not align well enough due to the lack ofappropriate and adequate training ofteachers and lack ofappropriate materials. All the teachers' from non government preschools d reading and talked about books in the class. At least one of the teachers in the sample of NGO schools created an opportunity for children to explore books during free play. Contrary to this situation government preschool teachers are not able to create such opportunities for the students, because they are not instructed or guided. Although storybook is listed as a core material in Operational Framework of Pre-Primary Education (Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, 2008) and is also listed in the acceptable standard practices they are not able to utilize them properly due to lack of instruction or guidelines. This operational framework also mentions the illustrated book as supplementary material which was not found in any of the preschools. lt is however, is considered a standard practice requirement. While exploring teachers' perception, this study revealed discouraging impression about use of storybooks despite its emphasis of practice in the curriculum guideline. Most teachers assume that preschool children are too young to read storybooks' However, the common perception about language development of the teachers is that positive practices are needed for better development of language and communication within the curriculum they have. Bearing this understanding most of the teachers stated the need for teaching English and practiced it for preparing the students for next level. Communication with the new students and non-Bengali students in the beginning ofthe school year, large class size and conducting continuous classes on every working day were identified as challenges in this study. Teachers, however, expressed strong confidence about facing these challenges. They mentioned that the source of their confidence is their experience and training. This study evidentially documents teachers'practice and perception that are consistent to some extent with the acceptable standard practices, but in certain other areas teachers lack skills and resources. The study confirms that language and communication development of preschool children is highly dependent on teachers' readiness, which needs to be addressed by the appropriate authorities responsible for ensuring quality in the young child development agenda. The recommendations include further study with a larger sample size covering more diversity; quantitative approach is needed for representation of a larger sample. For better assessment of the situation, more and repeated class observations are needed in several contexts. Regarding positive steps to promote language development of young children, the required actions include: ensuring availability of storybooks and illustrated books to encourage reading in early years; arrnaging professional training for the teachers about the use ofthese books; and fostering and scaffolding play, especially for second language speaking students to engage them ininteractive activities that offer ample opportunity for language and communication practice.