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Parent guides reduce social inequality and promote early childhood development

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FAU’s Chair of Psychological Diagnostics evaluates federal education programme

To give children from disadvantaged families the opportunity to access positive educational and development processes at an early stage by getting specially qualified parent guides to inform and create interest among parents – this was the goal of the federal programme ‘Elternchance ist Kinderchance’ (Parents’ opportunities are their children’s opportunities) which has now come to an end. In addition to doing something good, the programme also aimed to check how successfully the educational measures were implemented and how much participants gained from them. Researchers at the Chair of Psychological Diagnostics at FAU and the German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut, DJI) in Munich have evaluated the federal programme and the results are now available. ‘The federal programme makes an important contribution to reducing social inequality,’ says FAU researcher Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler.

Education begins at home and children should be given access to it as soon as possible. This is particularly true for socially disadvantaged families without easy access to education and for parents who are migrants. Some advice at a parents’ café, a piece of important information at the playground, a tip when baking together or just a culturally appropriate greeting – parents who are supported by qualified specialists very much appreciate working with parent guides and view their relationship with them as trusting. ’99 percent of parents are satisfied with their parent guides; the overwhelming majority are highly satisfied,’ says Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler from the Chair of Psychological Diagnostics at FAU. The parent guides’ knowledge and commitment, and the easily accessible counselling and support received particularly high levels of acceptance and praise among those surveyed.

Foundations of early childhood education

The evaluation of the federal programme also shows that the specially trained experts’ work can prove successful. ‘Overall, families that have contact with parent guides make use of more educational and support opportunities for their children than parents who do not receive counselling,’ Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler reports. ‘By doing so, parents are laying the foundations of early childhood education.’ The opportunities available include language teaching and science education. The parents are encouraged and given support to guide their children’s education and to better identify and make use of opportunities to promote their children’s education. ‘Parent counselling works best when the guides also come from a migrant background,’ says the FAU researcher. ‘They help reduce fears and give courage.’

Parent guides provide key advice and direction

Between 2011 and 2014, around 4300 specialists who work in family education – such as social education experts, teachers and social workers – were given special training as part of the federal programme ‘Elternchance ist Kinderchance’. ‘They provide key advice and direction,’ explains Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler. Due to the diagnostic skills that they had acquired through this training, they were able to quickly spot if children had language deficiencies, for example, and act accordingly. The parent guides supported parents with educational issues, were people that they could trust and were always available on a day-to-day basis, especially for parents with a particular need for counselling.

The team of researchers from FAU and the German Youth Institute in Munich investigated three areas of the federal programme. While the FAU researchers concentrated on how much parents and children benefited from the programme, the DJI investigated the training measures, as well as 100 model locations where parents also received counselling in a section of the programme called ‘Elternbegleitung plus’ (Parent counselling plus).

The federal programme was funded by the qualification initiative ‘Aufstieg durch Bildung’ (Advancement through education). ‘We welcome the fact that the government has carried out a scientific evaluation of its family education programmes, allowing their effectiveness to be assessed,’ says Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler. ‘We were delighted to carry out the evaluation with the team from the German Youth Institute led by Prof. Dr. Sabine Walper and Dr. Karin Jurczyk.’ If the project ‘Elternchance ist Kinderchance’ is continued, the extent to which the work of the parent guides has an effect during the transition from kindergarten to primary school could also be investigated.

‘It is an honour for us to have been selected to carry out the evaluation and to have been able to apply our expertise in government processes relating to education policy,’ says FAU Vice President Prof. Dr. Antje Kley regarding the publication of the results. ‘The fact that federal programmes are not just carried out but are also evaluated at the same time ensures that resources can be planned effectively and that educational programmes are effective.’

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler
Phone: +49 9131 8564020 or +49 9131 8564019
mark.stemmler@fau.de

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