Department of Education

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A new study led by Oxford’s Department of Education will develop and test an oral language intervention for pre-school children in India and the Philippines where limited access to quality early childhood education programmes has been identified as a major forerunner to an unfolding learning crisis.

The research speaks directly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to ensure that all children ‘have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education‘.

A powerful way to ensure all children are ready for learning, particularly in school, is to offer high quality oral language education early in a child’s life. This is supported by a large body of evidence showing a combined foundation of strong spoken language and listening comprehension cascading to reading and writing skills.  But not enough is known about oral language education is multilingual settings. The ESRC and the Global Challenges Research Fund has funded £1.85 million to develop assessment tools, teacher training modules and a teacher-led programme to support children’s oral language in multilingual settings.

Dr Sonali Nag, Associate Professor of Education and the Developing Child in Oxford’s Department of Education and Principal Investigator on the project, said: “Children with a small vocabulary are at a disadvantage for all aspects of learning and unless there is targeted support, children who start slow will continue to fall behind. This research will first map opportunities and barriers to oral language development in multilingual settings and validate assessments to track children’s development in-context before examining the efficacy of a new oral language programme.”

Researchers will take a consultative approach to developing a language programme rooted in indigenous oral traditions and narratives responsive to the communities’ languages. Children who receive the intervention will directly benefit from its instruction, providing them with firm foundations for literacy learning in school. Knowledge exchange and consultative activities will provide a platform for local and international academics, civil society partners and governments interested in supporting children’s oral language development in other low- and middle-income countries.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology, the University of the Philippines, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, The Promise Foundation (India) and Interactive Children’s Literacy Programme (Philippines) will run for three years starting in January 2020.

The research team includes:

Dr Sonali Nag, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Professor Alis Oancea, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Dr Joshua McGrane, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Dr Katrina May Dulay, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Dr Shivani Tiwari, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Department of Speech & Hearing
Dr Sunila John, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Department of Speech & Hearing
Dr Gideon Arulmani, The Promise Foundation (India)
Dr Dina Joana Ocampo, University of Philippines, College of Education
Ms Portia Padilla, University of Philippines, College of Education
Ms Julie Weygan-Aparato, Interactive Children’s Literacy Programme (Philippines)
Professor Maggie Snowling, University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology
Dr Yonas Mesfun Asfaha, Asmara College of Education, Asmara, Eritria
Dr Cynthia Puranik, Georgia State University, Department of Communication Science and Disorders

Photo credit: The Promise Foundation

The Early Start “Leadership for Learning” research programme led by Professor Iram Siraj at the Department of Education, University of Oxford and Visiting Professor at the University of Wollongong is transforming professional development approaches within the early years sector across New South Wales, Australia and beyond.

In partnership with the NSW Department of Education, the team including Professors Iram Siraj and Ted Melhuish from the department initiated the Fostering Effective Early Learning (FEEL) study – a world-first randomized controlled trial investigating the impact of an evidence based in-service Professional Development on early years educators’ practice and children’s outcomes in key areas of learning development, and wellbeing.

With more than $3 million funding involving over 200 Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services and over 1200 children, the Leadership for Learning professional development deriving from the FEEL study has provided the NSW Department of Education and leading early childhood organisations with an effective, evidence-based and affordable model for practice and workforce development, and has given rise to multiple and sustained opportunities for the Department and Early Start to advocate for the importance of high quality ECEC in the NSW, Australia, UK and international context.

Professor Iram Siraj commented: “This work has led to further randomized control trials being funded and evaluated in Victoria and the UK. In Australia the impact includes the biggest provider of ECEC adopting this approach, it is responsible for over 650 centres, 14,000 staff and provides ECEC services for 73,000 families to strengthen the workforce and improve child outcomes.”

Iram Siraj joined the department as Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Child Development and Education in June 2018 and is a leading international expert in pre-school and primary education research and policy. During summer 2019 she received the University of Wollongong’s Vice-Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award for Research Partnership and Impact for this work.

For more information about the Fostering effective Early Learning research see: https://education.nsw.gov.au/early-childhood-education/whats-happening-in-the-early-childhood-education-sector/data-and-research/feel-study-2018

The Australian state of Victoria has announced universal state-funded Early Education for all 3-year-olds based upon results from research led by department professors, Ted Melhuish, Iram Siraj, Kathy Sylva and Pam Sammons. This social, economic and educational reform of the provision of early childhood education will be the largest in the state’s history and a first for the country.

The DfE-funded research project on Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) examined the educational attainment and social development of children from pre-school to the end of key stage 4 over a seven year period. It showed that pre-school education from 3-5 years of age could improve educational and social development at the start of school. These benefits were found to be long-lasting and also led to improved educational attainment and better social development through to the end of school.

Under the re-elected Andrews Labour Government, every Victorian-born child will now start kindergarten a year earlier, giving them the skills and experiences they need to be ready for school. The state will invest almost $5 billion over the next decade, with the reforms being rolled out to six local government areas by 2020 and to a further 15 local government areas during 2021. This will ultimately affect the lives of millions of children.

Ted Melhuish, Professor of Human Development in the department and one of the study’s Principal Investigators, said: “Studies in many countries have now supported the ground-breaking EPPSE research in finding that pre-school education, particularly if high quality, has long-lasting benefits for all children. The benefits are such that all countries should regard good quality pre-school education as an essential part of the infrastructure for economic development.”

Ted Melhuish has been consulted by ministers and government officials in Australian states and federal government over the last six years and most recently in Victoria. In addition Iram Siraj was an investigator on supporting research in Australia. The EPPSE research has influenced policy in multiple countries including Canadian provinces, Sri Lanka, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Norway and Germany and is still on-going.

Discover more about the research programme and its findings here.

CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

In 2019, the University of Oxford’s Department of Education celebrates the 100th year since the passing of a statute creating what was known in 1919 as the University Department for the Training of Teachers. To celebrate our centenary a year-long series of activities will be delivered to address some of the department’s top initiatives for 2019, answer some of the big questions facing education today and to reveal the advancements the department has made to the study of and research in the field of education. Join us as we mark our 100th year and discover more about our anniversary here.

Department academics Kathy Sylva and Sandra Mathers have been appointed to two new UK government advisory panels, which will support Ofsted in the development of its new Early Years Inspection Framework and the Department for Education on digital literacy.

With hundreds of educational apps currently on the market but little advice about their quality Sandra Mathers (Senior Researcher) will be offering advice to the Department for Education as part of its new Early Language, Literacy and Communication Apps Panel. Consisting of eight educational experts, the panel which formed in January will work to assess literacy apps and produce guidance for parents and teachers based on educational value.

Helping to advise Ofsted on its new Early Years Inspection Framework Senior Fellow Kathy Sylva (Professor of Educational Psychology) joins 21 carefully selected experts from UK universities, schools, pre-schools and local authorities, as part of its new Pedagogy and Practice in the Early Years Forum.  The forum met for the first time in January to discuss questions such as, how do young children learn to read? What is the best way for them to develop physical skills? And how can early education theory translate into practice in the nursery, the childminder’s home and the Reception year?

Sandra’s main research interests are the quality of early education and its effects on child development, early language development and professional development research. She is currently leading the development and implementation of an early years professional development intervention designed to improve children’s oral language skills.

Kathy has carried out many research studies on preschool development and education, and has particular expertise in the effects of early education and care (including parenting) on children’s development. She is one of the principal investigators on the evaluation of the Big Lottery’s ‘A Better Start’ intervention, a joint project with Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention. In 2008 she was awarded an OBE for her services to children and families.

Both staff members belong to the department’s Child Development and Learning Research Group, which focusses on ways in which learning environments and within-child factors shape cognitive, language, social, emotional and physical development from birth-to-twelve.

CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

In 2019, the University of Oxford’s Department of Education celebrates the 100th year since the passing of a statute creating what was known in 1919 as the University Department for the Training of Teachers. To celebrate our centenary a year-long series of activities will be delivered to address some of the department’s top initiatives for 2019, answer some of the big questions facing education today and to reveal the advancements the department has made to the study of and research in the field of education. Join us as we mark our 100th year and discover more about our anniversary here.

www.thestandard.com.hk

Article featuring comment by Kathy Sylva (Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Educational Psychology).

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Department academic, Ted Melhuish (Professor of Human Development), has advised a number of countries on their early childhood policies, most recently Sri Lanka. Earlier this year he made a presentation and held a series of discussions with Sri Lankan government officials on the long-term benefits of high quality early childhood education.

Sri Lanka subsequently boosted funding for early childhood education. He argues that Australian governments should follow the Sri Lankan government’s lead, and welcomed the Australian Labor Party’s commitment to increase Federal funding for early childhood education.

It was in his capacity as a UNICEF Ambassador that he made a presentation to “Building Brains, Building Futures: The Sri Lanka Early Childhood Development High-Level Meeting” in July this year. Key government officials and advisors, including the education minister and the finance minister, were at the meeting.

“The message I gave them was that in order to provide an infrastructure for the level of economic development that Sri Lanka wants for its future generations, they needed to improve their early year services, particularly in the area of early education,” Professor Melhuish said.

“I pointed out that other Asian countries such as Singapore, which Sri Lanka sees as a major competitor, had taken on board the international research and had started to invest much more heavily in early education.

They were impressed by this comparison and by the evidence from around the world that I presented to them, and now the minister of finance has announced a massive increase in government spending on early education.”

A large and growing body of research shows that quality early childhood education delivers a wide range of benefits, not just to the children involved but to society overall. These include improved child well-being and learning, reduced poverty, increased social mobility, greater female workforce participation and increased social and economic development.

“The evidence from around the world is that when you invest in good quality early education you see improved outcomes for children in their behavioural outcomes and in their early learning and capacity to adapt to school very quickly,” Professor Melhuish said.

“That impact at the start of school then has consequences for their later developmental trajectories. Those children with good preschool education for longer duration start on a high trajectory and maintain that trajectory through to the end of school, and finish with higher levels of qualifications.

“They subsequently get better jobs and show better social adjustment. Thus, the skills base of the whole population is raised, and the economic potential of the country is improved.

“Those children are less likely to get involved in crime, to use drugs, to have an early pregnancy, or to get involved in risky behaviours that lead to bad health. They are less likely to be dependent on welfare and unemployment benefits, and more likely to be employed, paying taxes and improving government finances.”

Professor Melhuish is Professor of Human Development in the Department of Education. He is also an adviser on childhood development issues to the OECD, European Commission, UNICEF and WHO. To find out more about his work and current research see here.

nurseryworld.co.uk

Article citing Professor Ted Melhuish (Academic Research Leader).

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