TESTING PRESCHOOL EDUCATION EFFECT ON FOURTH GRADE STUDENTS’ MATHEMATICS ACHIEVEMENT IN TIMSS 2015: LITHUANIAN CASE
Lithuanian as many other education systems address the problem of educational inequality. One of its strategic educational goal is to narrow the socioeconomic status (SES) achievement gap by ensuring equal opportunities for children from different SES background families to develop optimally their competencies during school years. However, findings suggest that students’ achievement gap significantly not narrowed but even widened between 1995 and 2015 based on 20-years trends in TIMSS (Broer, Bai &Fonseca, 2019). Affordable and high-quality preschool education could be seen as one of effective policies to reduce competence differences between children from different SES background in early developmental stage (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2019). Studies have shown that child-teacher relationships play a significant role in children’s cognitive and social development (Yoshikawa et al., 2013). From the attachment perspective, if children have insecure attachment with their parents, they tend to be ambivalent toward exploration of new situation in order to learn new things about the world. Supporting and close relationships with teachers could provide those children opportunity to develop alternative models of relations with social word, ensuring safe base for exploration (Davis, 2003). However, long-lasting preschool education effect on academic achievement in elementary school is debated (Han, O’Connor & McCormick, 2019) and these effects might differ depending on elementary school environment to which children are exposed after preschool education (Ansari & Pianta, 2018).
In the current study using 2-level random effects models we seek to examine the role of preschool education on mathematics achievement in fourth grade. We ask the following research questions:
1) Is preschool education associated with student mathematics achievement in fourth grade in TIMMS 2015, after controlling for school composition based on SES and preschool education?
2) What is the effect of school composition based on preschool education on the association between individual SES and mathematics achievement?
TIMSS 2015 results indicate significant positive preschool education effect on mathematics achievement on student and school levels, however school composition based on preschool education strengthen the within-school relation between student SES and achievement. It seems that in Lithuania the problem of educational inequality remains and should be further addressed.