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Factors of the early learning environment that promote early learning outcomes in Aotearoa / New Zealand.

This research was funded by the Ministry of Social Development’s Children and Families Research Fund.

The researchers, from University of Auckland, Otago University and Ministry of Education, used data collected from the Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) study to determine factors that impact children’s early learning outcomes, and asked if there were any ethnic differences in the determinants of early learning success.

The research used modelling to explore factors which predict early learning success in the GUiNZ cohort of around 6,000 children. Early learning outcomes were determined by looking at oral language, letter recognition, and writing skills at four-and-a-half years of age.

Key Findings

  • Parental teaching of early academic skills (eg, encouraging a child to print or read letters) at 54-months was an important contributor to better early learning outcomes.
  • A child’s oral language at age two is an important mediator of early learning, and shared book reading in the first two years is the best predictor of oral language.
  • Most factors explored in the models remained important predictors across all ethnicities. However, there was considerable variation within groups.
  • Mothers from all ethnic groups reported engaging in teaching behaviours to similar extents, indicating that a broadly similar value is placed on teaching activities across all groups.
  • Children whose mothers reported some concerns about their child’s conduct (temper tantrums, disobedience) at 24-months tended to have poorer early learning outcomes at 4.5 years. Furthermore, the mothers of these children tended to report engaging in fewer teaching behaviours at 4.5 years.
  • Mothers of children living in homes with more children’s books reported fewer concerns about emotional and hyperactivity difficulties at age 24 months.

Lead researcher Kane Meissel said the research suggests that a contributor to early learning success is parents engaging with children around reading, writing and counting. He said the research also showed parents of all ethnicities are similarly committed to teaching literacy and numeracy skills, indicating there is broad acceptance of the importance of early teaching across all groups.

The Ministry of Social Development funds Growing Up in New Zealand and administers and funds the Children and Families Research Fund. Through the Children and Families’ Research Fund, $750,000 is made available each year for policy-relevant research projects using Growing Up in New Zealand data. The views and interpretations in this report are those of the researchers and are not the official position of the Ministry of Social Development.

The Beehive building
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