From Day One: The Importance of Early Learning
Feb 24, 2021
A Preliminary Comparison of Moroccan Parents to United States and United Kingdom Benchmarks
Published in: Journal of Child and Family Studies (2023). doi: 10.1007/s10826-023-02542-y
Posted on RAND.org on February 28, 2023
There is a dearth of research examining what parents in MENA region know about children's brain development and the type of activities they engage their young children at home to promote their cognitive development. This article describes and compares the views and behaviors of parents with children 0–6 years old from Casablanca, Morocco, the US, and the UK on early parental engagement. Seventy-eight Moroccan parents were compared to 1066 US/UK parents. The study utilizes survey data and explores parents' understanding of and support for their children's early cognitive development. Results reveal that more than fifty percent of Moroccan parents do not see themselves as having an impact on brain development until after the first year of their child's life compared to 10% of US parents, in part because they believe that babies' capacity for learning in the earliest years is limited. Yet Moroccan parents reported higher frequencies of teaching their young children letters and numbers and reading a book to them than US parents. These differences in at-home teaching practices may reflect the higher percentage of US/UK children who participate in early learning programs outside their own homes; such programs are not culturally accepted in Morocco. The belief that there is little capacity for learning in children's earliest years among Moroccan parents may minimize parents' motivation to function as their child's first teacher in the absence of early education programs. Policy implications and interventions are discussed concerning ways to change parents' knowledge and beliefs to motivate early learning activities.
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