Pre-school children's performance in prediction and hypothesizing: a study of Isinya and Ngong divisions of Kajiado district, Kenya
Githinji, Alice W.
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The performance in science subjects at all levels of education in Kenya has been consistently poor over the years. Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) reports of 2002/2004 indicated that performance was better placed on questions testing for recall of knowledge and relatively poor on questions testing process skills. These reports suggested that learners were not well prepared in science process skills. Studies carried out in Kenya in the area of science process skills had focused on higher levels of education. Little was known, therefore, about the competence of young children in science process skills yet the poor performance in science in national examinations could have been due to lack of a firm foundation in science at the pre-school level. This study was designed to investigate the competence of five-year old Kenyan pre-school children in science process skills. Since five-year-olds are in transition into primary school, the education they get should provide a firm foundation for later learning. For purposes of this study, the skills of prediction and hypothesizing were purposively selected to represent other process skills. The two are important skills that promote reasoning. More specifically, the research sought to determine whether the geographical location of a pre-school child is related to his/her performance in the skills of prediction and hypothesizing and whether the gender of a pre-school child is related to his/her performance in the skills of prediction and hypothesizing. The study also sought to determine if any relationship existed between the performances of pre-school children in the skill of prediction and that of hypothesizing. The theoretical framework underpinning the study was based on Piaget's theory of cognitive development. The study used a quasi-experimental design in a naturalistic setting. The independent variable was the geographical location of the pre-school while the dependent variable was the scores obtained by the child in the process tests. Ngong and Isinya divisions of Kajiado District were purposively selected on basis of accessibility. Isinya division was categorised as a rural region while Ngong division was categorised as peri-urban region. From each of these divisions, five pre-schools were selected on basis of accessibility. Two boys and two girls, all five year-olds, were randomly selected from each of these pre-schools. As a result, a total of 20 girls and 20 boys were assessed on their performance in prediction and hypothesizing skills using the Piagetian sinking and floating experiment. Responses were recorded on a questionnaire. The data obtained was descriptively and inferentially analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS). Eleven hypotheses were tested at a significant alpha (a) level of 0.05. Eight of these were tested using the t-test for independent samples while three were tested using Pearson's Product Moment Correlation. The findings of this study suggest that fiveyear old pre-school children had basic prediction and hypothesizing skills. However, pre-school children were more advanced in the skill of prediction than in the skill of hypothesizing. The study findings also indicated significant gender and geographical differences in performances in prediction with pre-school girls outperforming pre-school boys and with rural pre-school boys outperforming the peri-urban pre-school boys in the skill respectively. No significant gender or geographical differences were observed in performance in hypothesizing. This study had recommendations for policy makers, curriculum developers and teacher trainers. The study also recommended that both parents and pre-school teachers involve boys and girls in similar experiences, expose them to different regions and also introduce them to English language as early in life as possible. Recommendations for further research focused on the need to consider other geographical regions, other levels of education, other science process skills and other variables that may influence performance in science at pre-school level.