Home-School Communication in the Early Childhood Development Phase

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Effective two-way communication is the most important but least measurable factor in developing successful home-school relationships. Where effective communication is established and sustained in a comprehensive parent involvement programme, there are many positive outcomes for early childhood learners as well as learners in higher grades (Christenson, Rounds & Gorney 1992:178-206). Moreover, where parent involvement programmes are established in early childhood programmes, the benefits are apparent throughout the child's school career (Henderson 1989:38). These benefits include higher learner achievement (Davies 1999:7; Epstein 2001:221); lower dropout rates (Keith TZ, Keith PB, Troutman, Bickley, Trivette & Singh 1993:474-496); a decline in behaviour problems (Comer 1984:323-337) and academic initiative and persistence (Estrada, Arsenio, Hess & Holloway 1987:210-215). Moreover, parent involvement has the potential to decrease the gap in achievement between children from high and low-income families (Milne 1989:32-65). Thus, Schleicher (1992:29) concludes that strong parent involvement and parent collaboration are indispensable conditions for educational progress and success. To realise this partnership, two-way communication between the school and the home is essential. This article examines the practices of home-school communication in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) phase in South Africa. Generally, ECD programmes are the type of services provided for children from birth to age nine (Gordon & Browne 1993:37) and may refer to any series of activities aimed at promoting the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, moral and social development of the young child (Department of Education (DE) 2001:8). The Reception Year (Grade R), which was introduced in South Africa in 1996 as a pilot project, forms part of the ECD phase and refers to the five to six year old child (DE 2001:18). In KwaZulu Natal, where this research was conducted, the policy is to locate all Grade R classes in primary (elementary) schools (with the exception of independent preschools) (Bridgemohan 2001:58). The aims of the research were to determine the nature and effectiveness of home-school communication practices and to make recommendations on how communication can be improved to facilitate better home-school partnerships.


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