Short- and middle-long-term effects of early childhood education in the Netherlands on children’s Dutch language proficiency

Elma Nap-Kolhoff(1), Tamara van Schilt-Mol (2), Marjolein Simons (1), Ton Vallen (1), Linda Sontag (2)

1: Tilburg University, Netherlands, The 2: IVA, Netherlands, The


Early childhood education (ECE) has become an important tool for supporting children who are at risk for school failure during their start in primary school. In the Netherlands, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are encouraged to participate in preschool centres from ages two to three onwards. ECE programmes have been developed for these preschool centres and also for kindergartens, in order to facilitate children’s cognitive as well as social emotional and linguistic development. Given the fact that many of the children who are at risk for school failure do not have Dutch as a home language, and/or receive language input in a variety that is different from the ‘academic’ or ‘school’ variety (Bernstein, 1971), many ECE programmes have a strong emphasis on language development.

Several studies have evaluated the effectiveness of ECE programmes in the Netherlands, yielding different results. Attendance of preschool facilities at age two or three in general has no or only moderate effects (Dagevos, Gijsberts, & Van Praag, 2003; Van Steensel, 2006). Specific programmes in preschool centres and kindergartens, such as Kaleidoscoop and Piramide, have shown to generate some short-term effects (De Goede & Reezigt, 2001), although an important factor is the extent to which the programmes are actually implemented and executed in practice. Effects on the (middle-)long-term have not yet been investigated.

In our paper we investigate the question how ECE programmes used in the Netherlands affect children’s test results in Dutch language tests in the short- and middle-long-term. The study we conducted approaches this issue from both a quantitative and a qualitative perspective. In a large-scale quantitative study among 249 primary schools, pupil’s scores on standardised language tests at the end of kindergarten (groep 2) and two years later in grade two (groep 4) are related to the implementation of ECE programmes at these schools. Information about the use and implementation of ECE programmes was acquired in a survey-study. In the paper we present results about the relation between effectiveness, characteristics of the programmes, the actual implementation, and contextual factors, such as the backgrounds of the pupils.

For the qualitative study, a selection was made of five schools in the top-ten of most effective schools (after correcting for background characteristics of the schools and the pupils) and five schools in the top-ten of least effective schools. Interviews with key-informants (e.g., directors, ECE coordinators, teachers) were conducted to find out which characteristics contribute to the effectiveness of ECE programmes on the language development of children who are at risk for school failure.

Bernstein, B. (1971). Class, codes and control. Theoretical studies towards a sociology of language. New York: Schocken.

Dagevos, J., Gijsberts, M., & Van Praag, C. (2003). Rapportage minderheden 2003. Den Haag: SCP.

De Goede, D., & Reezigt, G. (2001). Implementatie en effecten van de Voorschool in Amsterdam. Groningen: GION.

Van Steensel, R. (2006). Voor- en vroegschoolse stimuleringsactiviteiten en ontwikkeling van geletterdheid. Amsterdam: Aksant.

Session: POSTERS:Focus on language policy, literacy, education, identity
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:00-15:45
room: foyer