LONG-TERM OUTCOMES OF EARLY CHILDHOOD SCIENCE EDUCATION: INSIGHTS FROM A CROSS-NATIONAL COMPARATIVE CASE STUDY ON CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE

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Abstract

The purpose of this research was to explore the long-term outcomes of either participating or not participating in early childhood science education on grade 6 students’ conceptual understanding of science. The research is situated in a conceptual framework that evokes Piagetian developmental levels as both potential curriculum constraints and potential models of efficacy. The research design was a multiple case study of grade 6 children from 3 schools in China (n = 140) who started formal science education in the third grade and grade 6 children from 3 matched schools in Australia (n = 105) who started learning science in kindergarten. The students’ understanding was assessed by a science quiz and an in-depth interview. The data showed that participating children from the high socioeconomic schools in China and Australia had similar understandings of science. Divergence between the medium and low socioeconomic schools, however, indicated that the grounding in early childhood science education in Australia may have placed these children at an advantage. Alternative explanations for the divergence, including the nature of classroom instruction in the two countries, are discussed.