Predicting Child Development Knowledge and Engagement of Moroccan Parents

Published In: Near and Middle Eastern Journal of Research in Education, v. 16, no. 3, May 2015, p. 354-361

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Gail L. Zellman, Rita Karam, Michal Perlman

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A growing body of empirical evidence points to a child's earliest years as a critical period for developing the foundation for later learning. Yet neither parents nor public policy in the Middle East and North Africa actively support such development. We developed, tested, and administered a survey to a small number of parents of children aged six years and under in Casablanca, Morocco in 2013 to assess parents' child development knowledge and how they view their role as teachers of their young children. We used multiple regression models to predict parental knowledge and parental engagement in learning activities with their sons and separately with their daughters. Results indicate that nearly half of parents believe that brain development does not begin until after a child's first year of life. Consistent with these beliefs, parents report engaging in learning activities with their young children less frequently than Western parents; they also relate that they would be unlikely to enroll their young children in high quality child care programs, even if cost were not a factor. Parents who indicated feeling a high level of individual control over life events were less knowledgeable about child development. Those who believe that God controls life events were both more knowledgeable and reported more engagement in learning activities. Parents who reported turning to professional sources for information on child development were likelier to engage in learning activities. The general view that teaching and learning in the first years are unimportant may help to explain the poor academic performance of Moroccan children later in life relative to those of children from other nations with similar economic status. Education of the public regarding the importance of early-years development could help inform parents and policymakers. Services that might be offered to reinforce this message are discussed.

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