Kindergarten education is a crucial element for the child’s development in the domains of social skills, ethics, and intellect. Therefore, early childhood educational institutions must meet the practical demands of educational and administrative management in order to provide students with decent quality education. This paper examines the educational and administrative management aspects of two kindergartens — Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association Wang Yan Athena Kindergarten (HKYWCA Athena) and The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten. Besides background information on students, facilities, and teaching staff, the paper explores such subjects as a partnership between families and school and support for children with diverse needs. In the end, a reflection is provided on which of two kindergartens performed better in the aspects of management, as well as suggestions on possible improvements.
Why Is Educational and Administrative Management Important?
The quality of educational and administrative management holds significant importance for the performance of early childhood educational institutions. Most importantly, effective management is necessary for developing and following a child-centered curriculum within the institution. According to the Curriculum Development Council [CDC] (2017), children learn best in an accepting, encouraging, and supportive environment. Educational and administrative management is directly responsible for the processes essential for creating such an environment: the building of partnership with families and satisfaction of child’s needs. In particular, educational and administrative management establishes communication channels, organizes parents’ involvement in the educational process, and shares curriculum and learning goals with families in a straightforward manner. In addition, administrative management is capable of supplying a kindergarten with professional teachers and facilities of sufficient quality. Overall, educational and administrative management supports two vital dimensions of kindergarten’s activity — it ensures implementation of a child-centered curriculum and provides necessary conditions for its fruitful execution.
HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten has been a non-profit educational institution for boys and girls functional since 1993. Morning and afternoon classes are free, while full-time tuition has a $5,740 annual fee (Schooland, 2020a). According to an overview by Education Bureau (2021a), this school’s mission lies in students’ comprehensive moral, intellectual, physical, and social development through the spirit and love of Christ. By October 2020, HKYWCA Athena had six registered classrooms with 223 students (Education Bureau, 2021a). In addition, the kindergarten employed 16 principals and teachers, 10 of whom held a degree, and all 16 had a certification for working in early childhood education (Education Bureau, 2021a). Other facilities included an indoor playfield and a group room (Education Bureau, 2021a). Overall, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten was able to meet the quality requirements set by the Education Bureau.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten has been a non-profit educational institution for boys and girls functional since 2017. Morning and afternoon classes are free of charge, while full-time tuition costs $11,500 annually (Schooland, 2020b). School treats children as “precious gifts from God” and sees its mission in providing high-quality, whole-person education and establishing cooperation between the school and students’ families (Education Bureau, 2021b). By October 2020, The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten had six registered classrooms with 146 students in total (Education Bureau, 2021b). The kindergarten employed 13 teachers and principals, 8 of whom held a degree; 12 teaching staff members had an early childhood education certificate, and one was a qualified kindergarten teacher (Education Bureau, 2021b). The kindergarten provided various facilities for children and parents— an indoor playfield, multifunctional room, library, and a music room (Education Bureau, 2021b). These conditions were sufficient for meeting the requirements set by the Education Bureau.
Families and School Partnership
Parenting styles and available leisure activities have a significant influence on the child’s development. Curriculum Development Council (CDC, 2017) has defined the involvement of parents as one of the most important positive factors for the quality of kindergarten education. Solid communication and collaboration between families, schools, and the local community are crucial for a child’s development (CDC, 2017). Establishing mutual trust between all parties significantly depends on the amount of effort put into this process by the educational organization.
The partnership between the families and schools can be examined via a six-element framework first introduced by Joyce Epstein. This framework includes six key dimensions of engagement between children, families, and schools: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community (Epstein et al., 2018). Parenting helps establish children as students, collaborating affects forms of communication, volunteering organizes support from parents, learning at home helps children and parents with homework (Epstein et al., 2018). Finally, decision making empowers parents with additional influence on the school’s decisions, and collaborating with the community attracts resources to strengthen school programs (Epstein et al., 2018). This section explores HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten and The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten from Epstein’s framework perspective.
HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten organizes various activities with a goal in mind to enhance understanding between the school and parents. For example, Athena Kindergarten arranges parenting seminars and parent-child activities in order to improve parenting skills and foster parent-child relationships (Education Bureau, 2019a). These activities include face-to-face shared reading at the school’s premises. In addition, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten organizes such activities as parent days, parent workshops, and lectures for parents (Education Bureau, 2021a). Overall, the kindergarten understands the necessity of parental involvement in the educational process and implements the necessary measures.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten also implements various practices in the aspect of parenting. In 2019, the kindergarten founded a Parent-Teacher Association, which aims to enhance parental involvement in childhood education. The school organizes parental education activities and encourages parents to support each other (Education Bureau, 2019b). In addition, The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten focuses on home-school collaboration and encourages parents to come to school and educate children with stories and assist them in learning (Education Bureau, 2019b). Due to the fact that the school currently operates half-day classes, shared reading is done via WhatsApp or other messengers; however, this situation does not significantly undermine the school’s efforts.
HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten utilizes notice boards, so the parents have information about homework or any special events readily available. Additionally, the school assists non-Chinese speaking parents with learning the most common Chinese words and expressions in order to improve home-school communication (Education Bureau, 2019a). As a result, the parents slowly acquire a better understanding of local culture. School administration also maintains telephone contact with students’ families (Education Bureau, 2021a). Furthermore, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten has organized a special group for non-Chinese speaking parents so that they could adapt more easily. Lastly, the Parent-Teacher Association serves as a bridge between the parents and the teaching staff (Education Bureau, 2019a). As a result, it becomes easier for a school to collect parents’ opinions and consider them in practice.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten does not use notice boards, which slightly hampers home-school communication. However, the efforts put by the kindergarten into establishing solid home-school communication are still substantial. For instance, teachers regularly make comments on students’ performance for parents’ reference and follow-up (Education Bureau, 2019b). In addition, the Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten provides the parents with a so-called “Parent Questionnaire”, which makes it possible for the families to send feedback about the educational process (Education Bureau, 2019b). Overall, the Education Bureau noticed trust between the parents and the school.
HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten has introduced several activities, which imply volunteering from the parents’ part. For example, the school encourages parents who have free time in the mornings and afternoons to help in measuring children’s temperature during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes, the parents are invited to help with logging books into the school library system. In addition, non-Chinese speaking parents are encouraged to volunteer in communication between the school and other parents in order to improve their integration in the Chinese cultural environment (Education Bureau, 2021a). In this regard, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten strives to enhance the level of volunteering among the parents.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten also engages parents in various volunteer activities. For example, the kindergarten focuses on home-school collaboration in such events as sports days, travels, and visits (Education Bureau, 2021b). According to the Education Bureau (2019b), the school organizes parent volunteer groups, in which members tell stories for children and assist the teachers. As a result, children’s participation and emotional involvement in various activities, such as outdoor recreation, improve. Overall, volunteering in HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten can be perceived as more formal and practical, while The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten implements volunteering for children’s enjoyment.
Learning at Home
HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten implements different measures in order to help students and their families with homework. For example, QR codes are used with homework, which allows to more easily access various Internet-based learning resources. In addition, the school attempts to tailor homework in such a fashion that it includes parent-child communication at home (Education Bureau, 2021a). Overall, the Education Bureau (2019a) has noticed that the arrangement of children’s homework practiced at the HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten is designed to suit children’s abilities and needs.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten does not utilize QR codes in homework, limiting it to a more traditional book format. However, that does not mean that this school neglects the learning at home aspect of the family-school partnership. According to an assessment by the Education Bureau (2019), the school established work processes and channels, which promote home-school cooperation. As a result, the parents cooperate with the school’s educational direction and cultivate it together with the school (Education Bureau, 2019b). Overall, the kindergarten managed to create an inclusive environment for the parents, allowing them to participate in children’s homework and curriculum-related activities.
Both childhood educational organizations have a special Parent-Teacher Association, which is tasked with involving the parents in the school decisions. However, the level of parents’ involvement differs between the two schools. In particular, the Parent-Teacher Association of HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten makes the ultimate decision on places where events such as outdoor activities will be held. On the contrary, the Parent-Teacher Association of the Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten plays a consultative role since parents are allowed to form groups outside the Association in order to make such a choice.
Regardless of the authority level given to Parent-Teacher Associations, in both cases, they serve as a bridge between the parents and the teaching staff. As a result, the parents receive an opportunity to influence the situation inside the kindergarten. In the case of HKYWCA Athena, the Education Bureau (2019b) specifically admitted parents’ ability to provide opinions and take part in organizing activities. As such, the decision-making aspect of Epstein’s framework is more represented in HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten.
Collaborating with the Community
Both early childhood educational institutions have well-established means for collaboration with the local community. For instance, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten provides the students with school social worker services, cooperates with various groups within the community, and actively uses social resources to support the children’s needs (Education Bureau, 2021a). Such activities as Freshmen Adaptation Week) provide vital help for the new students and accelerate the pace at which they adapt to their new school (Education Bureau, 2021a). Therefore, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten has clear measures aimed at collaborating with the community for the children’s benefit.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten does not fall behind in this department. For example, this school employs special “student support teachers” and “school-based social workers” who provide counseling and important referral information to children and their families (Education Bureau, 2021b). In addition, the school organizes workshops, visits, and lectures for children in the higher grades, which help them prepare for the next stages of learning (Education Bureau, 2021b). Overall, collaboration with the community can be perceived as a strong aspect of administrative management of both educational organizations.
Support for Children with Diverse Needs
Diverse educational needs require special attention and professionalism from the teaching staff. They can be separated into two main categories — special educational needs and needs of non-Chinese speakers. The first category encompasses children who may experience various health conditions, which creates a need for additional support from the teachers. The second category includes students and their family members who may not be proficient in the Chinese language. A modern educational institution must be inclusive in creating equal learning opportunities for these children. This section examines how HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten and the Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten achieve that goal.
Children with Special Educational Needs
Both kindergartens implement specific measures to support children with special educational needs. The professionalism of the teaching staff serves as the primary resource for creating an inclusive learning environment. According to the Education Bureau (2019a), the teachers at HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten exhibit care, patience and adopt diversified teaching strategies which consider children’s diversity. For example, they participate in games, read books together with the children, and skilfully use mimics and voice to create a relaxed atmosphere (Education Bureau, 2019a). In addition, the kindergarten provides preschool rehabilitation services (Education Bureau, 2021a). Overall, these measures confirm that the staff of HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten considers the special educational needs of its students.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten provides a full spectrum of services for children with special educational needs. For instance, on-site rehabilitation services include the help of speech therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and social workers (Education Bureau, 2021a). The Education Bureau (2019b) has credited the kindergarten’s teaching staff for accepting and respecting the uniqueness of children with special educational needs. In the end, the institution was able to provide all necessary help for these children (Education Bureau, 2019b). As such, one can state that the Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten succeeded at satisfying the modern-day requirements in educating students with special needs.
The second dimension of support for children with diverse educational needs implies assisting non-Chinese speaking students and their families. In this regard, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten has implemented more complex measures in comparison to the Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten. First of all, HKYWCA Athena hired additional teaching staff to support non-Chinese speaking children and help them learn Chinese (Education Bureau, 2021a). The school also encourages non-Chinese speaking students to communicate in Cantonese and provides non-speaking parents with learning materials in English (Education Bureau, 2019a). Lastly, teachers are encouraged to participate in professional development programs aimed at mastering strategies for assisting non-Chinese speaking students in learning Chinese. Overall, the school respected the needs of both non-Chinese speaking children and their parents.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten puts less effort into serving the needs of non-Chinese speakers. According to the Education Bureau (2021b), the school promotes teachers’ participation in professional development activities and encourages teaching staff to help non-Chinese speaking students. However, one can observe an apparent lack of such measures as parental inclusion in Chinese language learning. An overview by the Education Bureau did not highlight concrete means of assisting non-Chinese speaking parents. As a result, it is possible to claim that HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten showed better performance in addressing the needs of non-Chinese speaking children and families.
Which Kindergarten Demonstrated Better Educational and Administrative Management in Selected Aspects?
Considering all the educational and administrative management aspects within Epstein’s framework, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten showed a better overall performance. In particular, the school excelled at communicating and decision making dimensions by establishing a firm connection with parents. In particular, parents have a significant influence over the learning process and enjoy easy access to curriculum-related information. Additionally, HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten demonstrated a more complex approach to the needs of non-Chinese speakers by assisting not only children but their parents as well. The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten performed solidly and met all requirements set by the Education Department. However, the HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten managed to achieve better results in regard to parental involvement in the learning process.
Which Kindergarten Showed Weaker Educational and Administrative Management in Selected Aspects?
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten managed to meet all requirements. Its arguable weakness compared to HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten is parental involvement in decision making, since the school’s Parent-Teacher Association works as a consultative body with a limited influence on the decision related to the learning process. The learning at home aspect of Epstein’s framework can also be considered a relative weakness of the school’s educational and administrative management since homework is mainly limited to a traditional book format. However, the most significant weakness can be found in significantly smaller attention to the needs of non-Chinese speaking parents.
Suggestions for Improving Educational and Administrative Management
It is necessary to stress that both early childhood educational institutions have met criteria set by the Education Bureau. The HKYWCA Athena Kindergarten showed an overall better performance. Therefore, the main suggestion would be adhering to the current course. The Education Bureau (2019a) advised to continue the school’s self-evaluation and engage the teaching staff in regular follow-up activities and curriculum adjustments. Other than that, the kindergarten demonstrated a solid grasp of educational and administrative management practices from the perspective of Epstein’s framework.
The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten might use extra recommendations since it demonstrated a weaker performance in specific dimensions of educational and administrative management. In particular, the school could invest in increasing parents’ involvement in decision-making and learning at home. Additionally, the needs of non-Chinese speaking parents and family members require more attention. Furthermore, the Education Bureau (2019b) suggested developing clear criteria for children’s assessment by the teachers. Regular self-evaluation and curriculum adjustments should be conducted in order to address the issues mentioned above effectively.
School case analysis allowed to obtain the knowledge of Epstein’s six-element framework of parental involvement, which can serve as a solid foundation for this type of assessment. In addition, it became possible to learn how successful modern early childhood educational institutions meet the requirements set by the Education Bureau. Furthermore, one can understand how a collaboration with families and their involvement in the learning process can be enhanced. Such engagement is undoubtedly beneficial for a child’s learning and development, so schools and kindergartens should strive to increase the level of parental involvement. Finally, the analysis showed how kindergartens should address the needs of children with special needs, non-Chinese speaking children, and non-Chinese speaking family members. Attention to those needs is an important aspect of management for a modern-day school. Family members’ needs must be considered for enhancing parental cooperation and, consequently, achieving learning goals.
Curriculum Development Council. (2017). Kindergarten education curriculum guide.
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Education Bureau. (2021b). The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten.
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Schooland. (2020a). Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association Wang Yan Kindergarten.
Schooland. (2020b). The Salvation Army Shui Chuen O Kindergarten.