The performance of a group of Mangaung children in the Gesell preschool test
Mohlahle, Seiso Julius
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The high failure rate in the first school years, created a need for early intervention and led to a search for school-readiness tests that will detect school problems. No tests have been designed to evaluate school-readiness among black preschoolers, who grew up in cultural settings that differ from that within which the group of children for whom existing tests have been standardized, reside. Although various tests from overseas are locally implemented, most of them are not suitable for the blacks whilst others are still being standardized for such use. Gesell's Developmental Test for School-readiness seems suitable for use with the Sotho and Tswana culture groups in that it focuses on the totality of human development and maturation and is based on four developmental components, namely motor, adaptive, language and personal-social behaviour. Gesell's test has been used in America at the beginning of the century and the norms have been established in America. In order to establish the suitability of this test for South African conditions, the theoretical background of various developmental theories was looked into, Gesell's developmental perspective was more extensively explained, and general school-readiness criteria were identified. The effect of differences between cultures and the implications this holds for cross-cultural research, were taken into consideration, with the aim of furthering culture fairness in the testing of children. Following this, a study was conducted with the aim of assessing the developmental milestones of Mangaung preschoolers by means of the Gesell Preschool Test, and comparing the data of boys and girls, as well as of the five and six year age groups, with that of the USA normative group. The subject sample of 48 boys and 52 girls (N = 100) was drawn randomly from three preschools in Mangaung. Children were tested, by means of the Gesell Test, at their respective preschools and the test languages were South Sotho and Tswana. An ex post facto design was used to compare the data of boys and girls, and of the Mangaung, versus the New Haven, USA norm groups. The X2-test, for establishing the homogeneity of two independent samples, was used. The discrete categories were used to determine the significance of differences between the two independent groups. The comparison of Mangaung boys and girls yielded no significant differences. The data of the Mangaung preschoolers was subsequently compared with that of the USA normative group. In this case, significant differences arose mainly from subtests incorporating language, such as Picture Vocabulary and Action Agent where cultural variance for both the five and six year old groups were indicated. Apart from the problems mentioned, the study has confirmed that the Gesell test with it's 13 subtests can be considered to be culture-fair in the local situation. These results indicate that the Gesell Developmental Test, with follow-up studies and more data, can be considered for application among members of the black population group as a measure of school-readiness in preschool children.