May 21, 2024

Science – Daycare can alleviate social inequality – Lack of space slows it down – Knowledge

Dortmund (dpa) – Three girls, a boy, a teacher and a little storyteller: Alina, Ronja, Adisha and Milo – all three or four years old – are sitting in a cozy corner in a daycare center in Dortmund. Language supporter Petra Hahn rings a little bell and opens the doors of the folded paper theater – and off we go.

On the front of the picture boards, it's talk about carnival, the seasons, and spring – and behind them, it's about vocabulary, concept formation, and the ability to tell stories. “What comes after winter?” asks the educator. “Easter,” Ronja says. “And what flies in the sky?”

Alina, who is of Indian origin, knows this: “The butterfly and the bird build their nests.” The little ones are completely focused on the issue at hand, sometimes searching a little longer for the right words, sometimes using gestures, but they are all active and happy – and making linguistic progress, says Petra Hahn.

Language support is popular with parents

On the city's FABIDO-Kita Berliner Straße, 70 children from zero to six years old are cared for in four groups. 26 nationalities are represented. “We have a very high percentage of children with migrant backgrounds; our children come from families with different educational levels and different cultural backgrounds,” says the organization's president, Rosaria Caravanti.

Language support is very important. The team also attends training courses. The language group containing vocabulary expansion games moves across the four groups. Petra Hahn also brings in boys and girls with special needs from groups for targeted language support – for example from families with poor education or children like Anwar (4), who did not yet know German when he came to the day care center months ago. .

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All this is possible thanks to the rarely good level of staffing. But too many children have to be kept away. “I have 21 free spots from the summer and 420 names on the waiting list,” says the director of the facility, which is also a family center and cultural day care center.

In addition to children from non-privileged families

Children from socially disadvantaged families in particular can greatly benefit from attending a daycare center when it comes to cognitive skills. According to a study by the Leibniz Educational Pathways Institute (LIfBi), origin-related differences in areas such as vocabulary or basic mathematical understanding can be reduced.

However, children from disadvantaged families with few economic, cultural and social resources are particularly affected by the lack of childcare places to a much greater extent than boys and girls from better-off families.

A study of nearly 1,000 children over a long observation period spanning several years showed that children from socioeconomically weaker families gain significantly greater benefits from attending day care than children from more advantaged families.

This applies, for example, to elementary mathematical skills such as quantities, explains study author Corinna Kleinert. Children who started daycare at age two also had very positive effects on vocabulary three years later. The situation was similar with regard to the ability to make attributions and draw preliminary conclusions.

It is also in the interest of the state

Kleinert says visiting preschool can reduce the social gap in children's cognitive skills. What makes the situation even worse: “The lower the educational status and income of the family, or if the migration background factor is added, the more children are delayed in entering foster care.” Only about 35 percent of boys and girls from disadvantaged families are enrolled in an institution by the age of two.

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“Support targeted at a very young age is sustainable, a worthwhile government investment in the long term. Catching up later is always more arduous and expensive,” the sociologist emphasizes. And: “It is not that these parents do not want to send their children to a daycare centre; but they often lose out when it comes to competing for limited places. This is due to a lack of information as well as the selection process.”

Social selectivity?

Likewise, a recent analysis by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung found strong variation in day care use based on family characteristics. Children from families at risk of poverty, whose parents do not have an academic background and where German is not often spoken at home, go to day care much less often than other children. The gap between boys and girls from deprived families is largest in the second and third years of their lives.

Kleinert says fees play virtually no role in this context. Families receiving social benefits have no longer paid daycare fees nationwide since August 2019. In many federal states, daycare is generally, partially or for certain years free for all children. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 3.93 million children were cared for in day care centers in 2023. As of March 1, 2023, the care rate for those under three years of age was about 36 percent, and for those between three and six years of age, the care rate was Well 90 percent. The Bertelsmann Foundation assumes that there are about 430,000 missing daycare places.

Visiting the nursery in itself does not bring any benefit

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Education expert Annette Stein from the Bertelsmann Foundation also complains that children from socially and economically disadvantaged families are often left behind when it comes to allocating places. At the same time, she explained: “Children can only benefit from going to a daycare center if the quality is good.”

Whether early childhood educational work and compensatory services are possible in a day care center depends largely on staffing levels. This is often the problem; There is a need for a greater number of well-qualified teachers.

Meanwhile, at a daycare center in Dortmund, Kadisha (3 years old) talks about her first carnival: “I was there,” she points to a picture of a princess in the small stage. Three-year-old Milo was fascinated by the flowers on the paper stage panels and learned a new word: “snowdrop.” The kids can dig one in the front yard later. “Parents are very grateful that their children can take so much with them here,” says Caravanti Day Care Director.

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