University of Western Sydney
The study on which this paper is based explored Bangladeshi parents’ perceptions of children’s transition to school. The paper reports on the data obtained from interviews with 10 parents living in Sydney, Australia, on their children’s experiences when beginning school. According to the parents, friendships with peers who share a similar cultural or linguistic background and support from school teachers facilitated their children’s positive adjustments to school, whereas limited or lack of proficiency in English conversational skills hampered a few of their children’s adjustments to school. Parents also outlined the role of families, school teachers, and educators in childcare settings in enabling Bangladeshi children’s smooth transition to school.
A noteworthy finding of this study was that language barriers precluded many Bangladeshi parents from accessing information on school curriculum and transition to school and from collaborating with school teachers. The language barriers also hindered a few children’s smooth transition to school. The implications of this study are that educators need to be sensitive to and address the linguistic issues that impact on Bangladeshi children and their families in making a smooth transition to school.
Transition to school is a major event in the lives of children and their families. It is one of the life-changing experiences for children, with significant implications for their identity development (Ecclestone, Biesta & Hughes, 2010; Woods, Boyle & Hubbard, 1999, as cited in Brooker, 2002). Further, children’s first experiences with formal schooling have implications for their wellbeing, lifelong learning and educational achievements (Alexander & Entwisle, 1988; Brooker, 2008; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; McClelland, Morrison & Holmes, 2000; West, Sweeting & Young, 2008). Therefore, it is important to explore and understand the transitional experiences of children and their families if we are to provide for their present and future wellbeing.
Transition to school involves many adjustments on the part of children and their families (Briggs & Potter, 1999). These are emphasised in the literature on transition to school (for example, Chun, 2003; Ecclestone et al., 2010; Margetts, 2007). The foremost adjustments that children need to make relate to separation from parents and adaptations to school and classroom programs (Woods et al., 1999, cited in Brooker, 2002). Children also need to get to know people and places at school, such as classrooms and teachers, peers and playground, and school facilities like the canteen, library and so on. An awareness and understanding of people and places is needed to settle into school and to engage in learning—in other words, to become ‘pupils’ in classrooms (Brooker, 2002). The other adjustments that children need to make upon beginning school involve learning how to operate as individuals in group contexts, communicating their needs and requirements in socially appropriate ways, understanding rules and making new friendships with peers (Perry, Dockett & Howard, 2000).
The contextual model of transition to school (Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 1999) emphasises the role of various contexts in children’s transition to school. According to this model, children’s and families’ adjustments to school are contingent upon the situational and cultural factors of home, community and school. Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological theory suggests the need for continuity between home and school settings as children make educational transitions. A lack of continuity between homes and schools can impact on children’s adjustment to school (Vidali & Adams, 2007).Transition to school is a very complex process for children in general. It can be even more complex for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children as, in most cases, it involves ‘adopting the role of a student based on an anglicized model which fails to take their own background cultures fully into account’ (Woods et al., 1999, p. 11, cited in Brooker, 2002). Children can face difficulties in adjusting to school if they do not have the ‘knowledge of language, others’ cultures and communication codes’ needed to operate in microsystems or early childhood contexts (Vidali & Adams, 2007, p. 124). They can also be anxious and confused if they perceive school to be different from their home cultural context (Perry, Dockett & Nicholson, 2002). In brief, language or cultural differences between home and educational settings can compound children’s difficulties with adjusting to school (for example, Woods et al., 1999, cited in Vidali & Adams, 2007). Gaining an insight into CALD children’s and their families’ experiences with transition to school may help us provide better support for children in this situation.
Home and cultural contexts of children attending Australian schools are varied, with nearly 25 per cent of school children representing a language other than English (Hoddinott, 2006). CALD children and their families have added cultural and linguistic concerns and needs, including those related to transition to school (Sanagavarapu & Perry, 2005). As school children become more diverse, educators need to devise individualised and culturally and linguistically appropriate transition programs for promoting academic success in all students. To this end, it is believed that this study on Bangladeshi children’s transition to school, a selected CALD group, provides valuable insights into CALD children’s and their families’ experiences with transition to school.
Attendance in formal childcare settings, such as long day care or preschool, is believed to prepare children adequately for school by providing them with knowledge relating to discourses, rules and expectations in school contexts (Brooker, 2002; Brooker, 2008). The importance of childcare attendance in children’s transition to school is also documented in the literature on transition to school (for example, Kreider, 2002). For this reason, Iwas interested in exploring the transitional experiences and adjustments of Bangladeshi children and their families who attended formal care settings before starting school. The focus in this study on understanding parents’ perceptions of children’s transitions to school is justified, as parents tend to influence children’s attitudes to school and their transitions (Vidali & Adams, 2007).
Bengali-speaking Bangladeshi families and their children living in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, were selected for this study. Bengali is one of the languages spoken in India and the Indian sub-continent, such as Bangladesh. Bengali-speaking families are a newly emerging minority group, with 0.2 per cent of population in New South Wales (NSW) representing people of Bangladeshi descent (Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW, 2006). The cultural or language needs of this group of families and their children in relation to transition to school have not been extensively studied in Australia (Sanagavarapu & Perry, 2005).
The specific questions that were addressed in the research were: 1. What are the views of Bangladeshi parents on their children’s adjustments to beginning school? Specifically, what factors do they perceive have contributed to or hindered their children’s adjustments to school?2. What do Bangladeshi parents believe is the role of adult stakeholders (for exampel, parents, school teachers, and educators in formal care settings) in children’s transition to school? This paper reports on the data obtained from interviews with Bangladeshi parents on their children’s experiences and adjustments to beginning school. Given the importance of including children’s voices in studies on school transition (for example, Dockett & Perry, 2004), this study also attempted to collect children’s perspectives of transition to school. However, the data collected on children’s transitional experiences was limited. Hence, the data from children was not considered for analysis.
The study utilised a phenomenological (qualitative) approach, with a focus on exploring parents’ experiences and perspectives of their children’s transition to school (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000; Gay, Mills & Airasian, 2009). Interviews with parents were used as the main data collection method for this study. The benefit of interviews is they enable the researcher to get an insight into participants’ personal views and experiences on any chosen topic (Cohen et al., 2000; Freebody, 2003; Willis, 2008).
The sample for this study comprised 10 Bangladeshi parents. All of their children were born in Sydney, Australia, and attended formal child care settings before starting school. The children’s age at the time of starting school ranged between four-and-a-half to six years. Seven mothers and three fathers participated in the interviews. The majority of the selected parents had been living in Sydney as permanent residents for more than five years.
Bangladeshi parents and their children were recruited in the study using purposive and ‘snowball’ (word-of-mouth) sampling techniques (Cohen et al., 2000). The families were recruited initially through a selected Migrant Resource Centre (MRC—in NSW, MRCs offer advice, support and referral services relating to education, employment and so on to CALD and all community members in local government areas). They were then used as sources to identify other Bangladeshi families.
Data collection and analysis
Letters soliciting voluntary participation of families in the study and interviews, along with translated information about the project and consent forms, were mailed to families through the selected MRC. Arrangements for parent interviews were made over the telephone after obtaining written consent for their participation in the study. Interviews were conducted with parents in their homes in the months of April and May, after the children started school in January.
Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview schedule, with open-ended questions. The benefits of semi-structured interviews are that they provide freedom to respondents and also enable the researcher to guide the interview (Siraj-Blatchford, 2002, as cited in Shields, 2009). The questions in the interview pertained to children’s adjustments, factors that contributed to or hindered children’s positive transition to school, and the role of adult stakeholders in making transition to school a positive experience for children. The interviews began with the predetermined questions and also included follow-up questions based on the parents’ initial responses to questions in the interview schedule. The questions were trialled with a few Bangladeshi families that attended the selected MRC and no changes were made in the interview questions following the trialling.
Data was collected primarily using the note-taking method during interviews (Gall, Gall & Borg, 2005). Only four of the interviews were audiotaped, as the other parents did not consent to having their interviews taped. Individual interviews with parents were conducted in English or Bengali. The research assistant, who was also a community development worker for Bangladeshi families at the selected MRC, provided an interpreter service for parents who preferred to speak in Bengali. Emphasis was placed on the observance of cultural practices and values in the processes of the interview; for example, interviews began with traditional greetings.
The interviews were transcribed in full, translated into English (where needed) and analysed qualitatively with respect to each question in the interview schedule. Using content analysis (Freebody, 2003), parents’ responses in regard to children’s transition to school were categorised broadly into:
- positive and difficult adjustments
- factors that facilitated or hindered transitions
- roles and responsibilities of adult stakeholders (e.g. parents, school teachers and educators in formal care settings).
These categories or themes were based on the broad questions in the interview. The emphasis in the analysis was on finding common themes and patterns, as well as distinctiveness in the parents’ responses (Freebody, 2003). The number of responses for each of the selected categories was tabulated.
Results and discussion
In the research study, parents were asked to share their views pertaining to children’s adjustments, such as factors that contributed to or hindered children’s positive transition to school, and the role of adult stakeholders in making transition to school a positive experience for children. These results from interviews are presented and discussed in this section.
Factors that facilitated children’s transition to school
Children’s adjustment to school is contingent upon a number of factors. Bangladeshi parents were asked to indicate the factors that they perceived to be helpful in their children’s adjustment to school and they are charted in Figure 1. Most parents in this study (6/10) defined their children’s adjustment in terms of their ability to express personal needs, being cooperative and there being no complaints from teachers or children (refer to Figure 1). A few parents (4/10) also considered positive dispositions towards school and willingness to go to school in defining children’s adjustments. Most parents (6/10) felt that their children had a positive start to school. This finding is surprising, given that children from ethnic minority backgrounds were generally reported to face difficulties in adjusting to beginning school (Margetts, 2003; 2007).
According to parents, friendships with peers (6/10) who share the same language or cultural background were significant in their children’s adjustment to school. This finding is similar to many other studies that reported friendships have a positive impact on children’s perceptions ofschool, their school attendance, and social and emotional adjustments in a school (for example, Berndt & Thomas, 2005; Ladd, Kochenderfer & Coleman, 1996; Ladd & Price, 1987). The positive and cooperative behaviours of children and the ability to form positive relationships with peers also emerged as predictors of school adjustment in other studies (see Dockett & Perry, 1999; Ladd, 2003; Margetts, 1999). As Fisher (2009, p. 142) states, ‘friendship and being with a friend was more important to a child’s feelings about transition than any other positive factor’.
The finding in this study on the importance of friendships is, however, inconsistent with the findings of other studies on immigrant parents’ perceptions of the importance of friendships. For example, parents in Vidali and Adam’s (2007) study valued neighborhood and school as being significant in children’s adjustment to school, rather than peer friendships.
Figure 1. Factors that facilitated Bangladeshi children’s adjustments to school (n = 10)
Note: The total number of parents’ responses will not correspond with the sample size as parents are likely to rate more than one factor.
The literature on children’s friendships does not suggest children’s ethnic or cultural background as a parameter in the development of friendships in the early years of school. Nevertheless, the findings of this study suggest that friendships formed on the basis of shared linguistic or cultural backgrounds may be helpful in easing CALD children’s transitions. The evidence from adolescent research also suggests the benefits of intra-racial friendships for children (Kao & Joyner, 2004). Intra-racial friendships perhaps can promote shared cultural or linguistic activities, intimate relationships, as well as play essential for peer friendships (Kao & Joyner, 2004; Lee, Md-Yunus, Son & Meadows, 2008). They will also be less challenging for children with limited or no English proficiency, as some CALD children were reported to face difficulties in playing or interacting with English-speaking children (Lee et al., 2008). While this study suggests the benefits of friendships with children of similar linguistic background in children’s transition to school, it is essential that educators encourage CALD children to form friendships with all classroom peers to promote tolerance and positive attitudes towards diversity.
It is obvious that most children cannot adjust to school on their own. Rather, in the complex process of transition to school, children need support from adults (Ghaye & Pascal, 1988). Most importantly, the support provided by teachers in easing children into the school environment is crucial (Graue, 1998). Some parents in this study (4/10) mentioned that teachers played an important role in their children’s transition to school. They also said that meetings with teachers to discuss specific problems of children in the beginning, upon children starting school were quite helpful in facilitating children’s adjustment. Research also suggested an association between teachers’ warmth and supportive nature and children’s positive attitudes towards school (Harrison, 2004).
Next to friendships and teachers, proficiency in English language was considered to be a factor in children’s adjustment by a small number of parents (3/10). English language is vital to operate in school contexts for children and families in Australia. As Green (2000, p. 3) points out, ‘a classroom is a kind of club with insiders—those who understand the rules of the game because they come from clubs/homes that have similar beliefs, values, rituals, rules and ways of using language—and outsiders’. The children without proficiency in English language can feel marginalised and lack agency in cultural contexts predominated by English. The literature also correlates children’s positive adjustments to school with proficiency in English, and for children coming from homes where English was spoken (Margetts, 2007).
Only a small number of parents in this study emphasised the role of play (2/10) in enabling CALD children’s transition to school. This finding on the role of play is not consistent with the literature on transition to school that emphasises its importance in children’s adjustments to school (for example, Dockett & Perry, 1999; Fisher, 2009). However, the finding is not surprising, given that many Bangladeshi parents in this study (6/10) did not consider play as being important for children’s learning or development. Similar findings were reported in other studies involving Bangladeshi families in which parents did not perceive play as beneficial in children’s education. Some Bangladeshi parents were also noted to have instructed their children not to play but to engage more in reading and writing activities when they went to school (Brooker, 2002).
While the literature highlights the benefits of transition and or orientation programs for children’s adjustment in a school (Margetts, 2007), only two of the 10 parents mentioned a buddy system and orientation as helpful in their children’s transition to school. Interestingly, none of the Bangladeshi parents mentioned the role of transition programs in their children’s adjustments to school.
Factors that hampered children’s adjustments
In this study, a few children (4/10) adjusted poorly to school. According to their parents (3/4), children’s poor adjustment to school was related to their children’s limited English conversational skills. This finding is similar to the findings obtained from groups of non-English-speaking background parents who also suggested that children with limited proficiency in English will have difficulties in adjusting to school (Howard, Dockett & Perry, 1999, cited in Dockett & Perry, 2002a; Margetts, 2003). Recent studies (for example, Margetts, 2007) also indicated that children whose home language is not English will be vulnerable to problem behaviours and adjustments in a school. The following example typifies the effects of limited or no English conversational skills on Bangladeshi children’s adjustment.
I was very much worried as they were not talking in English and how they will adjust in school. My son did not understand anything and my daughter did not use toilet at all as she did not know how to ask for permission in English. Two days she did not use the toilet at school. On the third day, she had stomach pain. Then I went to the school and told the teacher as to what was going on. The teacher said to my child, ‘Why didn’t you say that you needed to go to the toilet?’ Although my son could not speak to others in English, he followed the other boys. But my daughter did not speak to anyone and when I realised that it is not good, I taught my daughter to say simple words such as ‘toilet’ in English (Participant no: 10).
In Australia, a lack of proficiency in English conversational skills can inhibit children from participating in learning or play activities with peers. It can also lead to social exclusion from peers in classrooms and play contexts (Fabian, 2002). Furthermore, language problems can lead to emotional or disciplinary problems when children struggle to understand the teacher’s instructions or classroom rules (Robinson & Jones-Diaz, 2006). For children with limited or no English, learning can be highly challenging as they may not be able to comprehend many of the teachers’ and peers’ conversations (Vidali & Adams, 2007). On the whole, language problems can be distressing for CALD children, especially during the transition to school.
Results of the current study raise questions on the role of English proficiency in CALD children’s transition to school. This question is worth pursuing in future studies on transition to school involving CALD children. Further, these results also raise questions on the nature of additional linguistic support that CALD children need and that can be provided to them during transitional periods.
Stakeholders in children’s transition to school
According to the contextual model of transition to school (Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 1999), children’s transition to school is dependent on their resources and abilities and support provided by families, school teachers and other community members. The available data on children’s transitions indicates clear differences between teachers’ and parents’ roles in both preparing children for school and for easing their transition to school (Dockett & Perry, 2002a; Dockett, Perry & Howard, 2000, cited in Dockett & Perry, 2002b). Accordingly, this study explored parents’ views on the role of adult stakeholders in preparing children for school and in facilitating children’s transition to school. Those findings are presented and discussed below.
All parents (10/10) in this studybelieved that they have a major role in preparing children for school and in facilitating their children’s transition to school. They started preparing their children for school in many ways, long before children started school. Teaching English language at home and reading books to children in English before they start school were suggested as vital to enabling transitions (6/10), apart from preparing them academically for school (4/10). These strategies are consistent with the parental concerns raised about the lack of proficiency in English for Bangladeshi children at the time of starting school and its concomitant impact on their social or emotional adjustments, learning at school, and relationships with teachers and peers (Sanagavarapu & Perry, 2005). Parents in this study were concerned about losing cultural traditions through the loss of home language in an English-dominated cultural environment at school. Yet, they were prepared to teach their children English as part of the ‘school knowledge’ (Brooker, 2002) needed for learning and comprehending the requirements and expectations of school. As pointed out by Brooker (2002), English language would give these children entry into the dominant culture.
Parents (3/10) also expressed the need to enthuse and prepare their children positively for school by buying a colourful lunch box, new clothes and/or uniform and a schoolbag, as well as talking to them positively about their new school. Visits to school were also considered as important in the transition process by some parents (4/10), as these would help to ease children’s anxiety and to get them acquainted with the school.
The knowledge about school and what is valued in school settings enables children to adjust easily to school and to achieve academic success in a school (Brooker, 2002). Families try to impart such knowledge to children, termed as ‘official knowledge’ by Bernstein (1975, cited in Brooker, 2002, p. 44). It may be different from learning and knowledge that is valued at home, but the knowledge about school is important for children’s positive experiences and adjustment in a school (Brooker, 2002).
The present study revealed that many parents (6/10) did not know the school’s expectations and curriculum. Parents also stated that they did not understand the information given to them at the time of starting school. As stated by Brooker (2002), parents’ knowledge of the school that their children attend provides the social and cultural capital needed for children’s academic success. Bangladeshi children will not be prepared adequately for school if their parents have insufficient knowledge about the school and feel that they are not equipped with the school knowledge necessary for children’s preparation for school. As argued by Bernstein (1975, as cited in Brooker, 2002, p. 63), ‘the domestic transmission of school knowledge is more influential in children’s subsequent school careers than what is taught and learned’.
As stated by Jackson (1987, cited in Peters, 1999), teachers have ultimate power in the classroom and also have a major responsibility in enabling children’s successful transition to school. Similar to this view, all parents (10/10) in this study believed that teachersplay a significant role inchildren’s adjustment to school and expected teachers to support their children with transition. This finding is consistent with Vidali and Adam’s (2007) and Adams and Shambleau’s (2007) findings that documented immigrant parents’ high expectations of school teachers to assist their children with transition to school.
Many parents in this study mentioned the need for teachers to respect children’s diversity in backgrounds, abilities, and experiences (7/10), and to provide individualised attention to CALD children (3/10). Parents in this study wanted teachers to accept CALD children as individuals with diverse abilities and be non-judgemental about their coping and learning abilities. As suggested by Osterman (2000, p. 359, cited in Perry et al., 2002), ‘students who experience acceptance are more highly motivated and engaged in learning and more committed to school’.
Parents (4/10) in this study also mentioned the need for teachers to meet with CALD parents at the beginning in the first year of school to discuss issues surrounding their children’s adjustments and to suggest strategies to facilitate their adjustments. But they also admitted that they were hesitant to approach teachers or take the initiative in opening up a conversation when needed, due to language barriers. Bangladeshi parents’ participation in their children’s school activities or education thus is inhibited by language barriers. This finding on the lack of parental collaboration with school because of language barriers is similar to the findings reported in other studies of immigrant families (Adams & Shambleau, 2007; Vidali & Adams, 2007).
In addition to meetings with parents, a few parents (2/10) also suggested the idea of parents staying with their children in the school in the first few days of starting school; similar to what happens in some schools in their native country. To quote a parent:
In Bangladesh, mums can wait outside the school—all day if needed—and even help children during lunchtime. But while lessons are going, mums wait outside the classrooms, sometimes they peek through the window to feel reassured and to reassure the child that mum is around! There is no such scope here. It helps mums if schools here encourage mothers to stay with their child or visit the child during the lunch or tea breaks. I am not sure if I can do that here (Participant 7).
Teachers in Griebel and Niesel’s 1997 study (as cited in Griebel & Niesel, 2002), recommended that parents should be allowed to stay with their child in the classroom in the first few days of beginning school. However, they did not suggest that all parents come in large groups at the same time. Teachers’ perspectives also indicated that they needed information about the child and family to assist children with their adjustment during the transition to school (Griebel & Niesel, 1997, as cited in Griebel & Niesel, 2002).
Teachers have a significant role in knowing CALD children and families individually and in assisting children in forming positive and sustaining relationships with classroom peers. Further to the strategies recommended by Bangladeshi parents in this study, it is also vital that teachers accommodate and adjust their teaching strategies so that every transaction is not in English. Effective instructional practices are significant, particularly for students coming from homes where English is not the primary language of communication (Adams & Shambleau, 2007; Garcia, 1991). The functional communication among the teacher, CALD children and peers is also essential in school contexts to address children’s CALD language problems (Garcia, 1991).
The benefits of collaboration between parents and teachers for children’s transition to school are well documented in the literature (Griebel & Niesel, 2009). It was concerning to note in this study that language barriers precluded Bangladeshi parents from accessing information on how to prepare their children adequately for school or to facilitate their smooth transition to school.
Educators in formal care settings
Prior-to-school settings, such as long day care and preschool, can offer information on structural and organisational matters relating to transitions (Fabian, 2002). Such information and preparation for school will be useful for families and children in their transition to school (Fabian, 2002). Children’s attendance at formal care settings is generally viewed as useful before children start school (Dockett & Perry, 2002a). According to Dockett and Perry (2002a), along with educators in formal care settings, even parents and school teachers seem to consider the role of childcare attendance as being valuable in children’s transition to school. Surprisingly, parents in this study did not highlight formal childcare experiences as highly valuable in children’s transition to school. This perhaps could have been due to the limited time the majority of children spent (6/10) in either long day care or preschool; for example, less than a year in many cases.
Bangladeshi parents’ perceptions of child care indicated that ‘child care is “a place to play and socialise”’ and that ‘real learning occurs only in schools’ (Participant 9). They also thought that ‘they don’t teach anything. Children just play in childcare centres’ (Participant 2). They did not consider child care as highly helpful in terms of preparing them academically for school (8/10). These findings on parents’ perceptions of child care are in congruence with the cultural variations in parents’ views of early childhood services (for example, Wise & Sanson, 2000). A few parents (2/10) admitted to preparing their children by teaching the alphabet at home before their children started school. Yet, most of the parents perceived childcare attendance to be useful in promoting children’s social and self-help skills (6/10). A few parents (2/10) also recommended that educators in long day care or preschool should promote academic learning and formal teaching of English to supplement the cultural training and academic learning that is provided to CALD children at home.
The present study on Bangladeshi families’ views of children’s transition to school is a small-scale qualitative study. Therefore, the results of this study cannot be generalised to other CALD populations in Sydney or Australia or across the globe. Interviews with school teachers and children, along with a large sample of participants, would have helped to strengthen the current findings. Despite these limitations, this study provided valuable insights into Bangladeshi children’s and families’ transition to school which need to be taken into account in facilitating their smooth transition to school.
This study suggests that Bangladeshi families’ and children’s transitional experiences to school are related to linguistic or cultural factors. For instance, parents attributed children’s adjustments to school with friendships with children of the same linguistic or similar cultural backgrounds. The study also indicated that language barriers precluded many Bangladeshi parents from accessing information on school needed to prepare their children adequately for school. For this reason, Bangladeshi parents need to be empowered with culturally and linguistically appropriate information on school and school curriculum so that they can prepare children for and facilitate their children’s adjustments to beginning school.
The language barriers also hampered some children’s smooth transition to school. The implication that can be drawn from this finding is that schools need to have additional bilingual provisions and support systems for children and parents who are at risk of poor adjustment arising from limited or no proficiency in English. Further, the study’s findings also suggest a need to investigate the specific role of English proficiency in enabling a smooth start to school for children in future studies on transition to school involving CALD children and their families.
The other implications that can be drawn from the present findings are that teachers need to take the initiative in communicating or collaborating with CALD families as they face cultural or linguistic barriers in forming relationships with teachers in school settings. Schools, childcare centres, and preschools also need to provide CALD parents with culturally and linguistically appropriate information on school, curriculum, expectations, and transition to school.
Teachers also need to acknowledge, as requested by Bangladeshi parents, the distinctive linguistic or cultural needs of CALD children and the individual variations in CALD children’s preparations and adjustments to beginning school. Further, they need to support children’s adjustment by minimising the language barriers through interpreters or a buddy system or bilingual teachers (Adams & Shambleau, 2007). Other strategies for meeting children’s social and emotional needs, promoting friendships and peer interactions, and ensuring that children feel welcomed into the school are also invaluable (Adams & Shambleau, 2007). As suggested by a few parents, educators in long day care or preschool can also support CALD children’s learning and English conversational skills to supplement the cultural training and academic learning that is provided to CALD children at home.
Starting school is a complex process for children and families, and more so for families and children that represent linguistic or cultural diversity. The present study on Bangladeshi parents’ perceptions of children’s transition to school revealed that friendships with peers who share a similar cultural or linguistic background and support from school teachers facilitated Bangladeshi children’s positive adjustment to school. On the other hand, limited or lack of proficiency in English conversational skills was seen as an impediment to children’s adjustment to school. Further to these findings, the multiple influences of parents, school teachers and educators in formal care settings in preparing children for school and in facilitating children’s transition to school were also highlighted in this study.
As Stephen and Cope (2003, p. 263) suggest, ‘transition to school is not a one-way process’ and school teachers cannot expect families and children to simply adapt to school. Teachers need to be sensitive to the diversity in children’s adjustments to school and to the multitude of contextual factors that impinge on their adjustments to beginning school.
In conclusion, for Bangladeshi families and children, language and culture are significant aspects of their transition to school. Yet, with English becoming a globalised and powerful language and a means to gain social and economic power (Singh, 2002), it is not surprising that they will be concerned about their children’s transition into English-dominated school contexts. By responding to the diversity in classrooms, educators can support Bangladeshi and other CALD children’s transition to school and provide for their present and future wellbeing.
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I would like to thank the reviewers for their valuable feedback on the manuscript.
Thank you to Emeritus Professor, Christine Deer, University of Technology, Sydney for her comments on the paper.
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood – Volume 35 No 4 December 2010
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Vol. 35 No 4 December 2010
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