Original Research

Contextualising school readiness in South Africa: Stakeholders’ perspectives

Erica Munnik, Mario Smith
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 9, No 1 | a680 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v9i1.680 | © 2019 Erica Munnik, Mario Smith | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 July 2018 | Published: 31 October 2019

About the author(s)

Erica Munnik, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Mario Smith, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

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Background: Preparing children for mainstream school occurs in systems that act as an overarching context. The perspectives of stakeholders influence how they prepare children for mainstream education.

Aim: The aim of this study was to develop an understanding of the contextual factors that affect school readiness as identified by stakeholders. School readiness was conceptualised as a function of contextual influences and connections between individual and systemic factors enabling the child to benefit from the curriculum.

Setting: This exploratory study was conducted in the Metro North Education District in Cape Town.

Methods: Five focus group interviews were conducted with a snowball sample of 35 stakeholders including parents (n = 9) and professionals from education (n = 17) and health (n = 9) systems. Transcriptions were thematically analysed. Resultant themes were summarised to reflect stakeholders’ perceptions.

Results: The results showed four major groups of factors that affect school readiness: community, adverse experiences, educational and familial factors. Firstly, community factors thematically identified were unemployment, socio-economic status (SES) and culture as impacting school readiness. Secondly, adverse experiences included violence, trauma and substance abuse that affect school readiness. Thirdly, educational factors identified are lack of stimulation, barriers to learning, teacher support and cooperation between stakeholders that influence readiness. Fourthly, familial factors such as parental support, variation in child-rearing practices and caregiver literacy exert influence on school readiness.

Conclusion: Acknowledgement of and engagement with the above-mentioned four factors could result in a nuanced and contextual understanding of school readiness and might foster cooperation between stakeholders.


school readiness; stakeholder perspectives; factors; qualitative study; contextual understanding; caregivers; educators; professionals; ecological framework; South Africa


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