ARAB RESOURCE COLLECTIVE
Mother Child Education Program Evaluation of the piloting in Palestinian camps in Lebanon

ARAB RESOURCE COLLECTIVE
Mother Child Education Program Evaluation of the piloting in Palestinian camps in Lebanon1

  • Ahmad Oweini (Lebanese American University, Lebanon)
  • Ghassan Issa (Arab Resource Collective, Lebanon)

1. INTRODUCTION2

The Mother Child Education Program (MOCEP) draws on three decades of research and was developed for mothers with children between 5 and 6 years of age who have not had access to pre-school education. MOCEP was developed by ACEV (Anne Cocuk E.itim Vakfi), a Turkish Non-Governmental Foundation.

MOCEP aims to enrich children cognitively and boost their school readiness. Mothers’ knowledge of, and role in their children’s development is enhanced, enabling them to feel emotionally secure and more self-confident. The program was improved over a period of twenty years of constant evaluation, and was transferred to several countries in Europe and the Arab world. Studies conducted from Bahrain to Belgium (Kocak & Bekman, 2004; Bekman & Kocak, 2011) have assessed the short and long term impact:

  • The children of participating mothers achieved higher scores in intelligence and general aptitude tests; continued their schooling for a longer period of time; and developed a more positive self-concept (Hadeed, 2005).
  • The participating mothers communicated better with their children and husbands, experienced increased self-confidence regarding their parenting skills and enriched their children’s living environment based on what they learned (Kocak & Bekman, 2004).

2. BACKGROUND

MOCEP has three components: Mother Support, Cognitive Training and Reproductive Health & Family Planning. Each includes educational materials distributed to mothers free of charge. MOCEP is administered over 25 weeks, with weekly three-hour group meetings facilitated by trained group leaders. A home kit is provided to each mother every week to be implemented at home with her child. Regular home visits by group leaders support mothers in the home environment.

MOCEP covers subjects such as child’s development, health, nutrition, creative play activities, discipline, mother-child interaction, communication, expressing feelings and the needs of the mother.

The Cognitive Training component includes 25 worksheets and 8 storybooks that aim to foster the cognitive development of the child and prepare him/her for school.

Each week’s home exercises contain activities that foster eye-hand coordination, verbal development, pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, problem solving and other cognitive abilities.

The Reproductive Health and Family Planning component takes the form of group discussions to inform mothers on the female reproductive system, healthy and risky pregnancies, contraceptive methods and general reproductive health. This program consists of 14 topics on reproductive health, and 9 topics on strategies of family planning.

3. THE PILOT PROGRAM IN LEBANON

Following an agreement between ACEV and the Arab Resource Collective (ARC), the latter translate the materials into Arabic, then the piloting was carried out through close cooperation between the two organizations. Implementation took place in 2011 in two steps:

  • 1) Training of trainers by ACEV and ARC experts,
  • 2) Training of mothers by trainers, which included implementation with children at home and home visiting by facilitators.

ARC cooperated with local partners well inserted in the community to recruit mothers of pre-school aged children. The activities took place in a designated community center in each location. The communities targeted were Palestinian refugee camps, whose population is part of the least privileged quintile in the country. The designated organizations and sites were: Ahlona in Sidon Camp; Popular Association for Relief and Development in Sabra camp; Woman Program Association (WPA) and Inaash in Bourj Barajneh Camp; Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation (GKCF) in Mar Elias Camp.

3.1. Evaluating the Pilot Program: Objectives and Study Sample

Following the conclusion of the 25-week program in 2011, an evaluation was conducted to measure the effectiveness of the program on both mothers and children, and whether it met its expected targets.

The study sample consists of 88 Palestinian. A breakdown of the demographic data is presented in Table 1. Key descriptive frequencies are:

  • Mothers aged between 26 and 30 years had the highest frequency (28.4%).
  • The average age of the sample was 32.3 years.
  • Only 5.6% of mothers had a college diploma, with 35.2% having only finished elementary school. 10% were either illiterate or failed to attain elementary education.
  • Critically, 71.5% of the mothers were unemployed.
  • Mothers with 2 children were the largest group, 36.3%. The average number of children aged under-6 per mother was 3.85%. Almost two thirds of the children were male.
Table 1. Demographic information of participants.
Category Frequency
Age of Mothers 20 – 25 16
26 – 30 25
31 – 35 14
36 – 40 21
41 – 45 9
46 – 50 1
N/A 2
Educational Levels of Mothers Can write and read 7
Didn’t finish elementary school 2
Finished elementary school 31
Didn’t finish middle school 12
Finished middle school 2
Didn’t finish high school 12
Finished high school 14
Didn’t finish college 3
Finished college 5
Employment Status Employee – Full Time 2
Employee – Part Time 5
Self-Employed 4
Not employed 63
Employee – Seasonal 1
N/A 13
No. of Children 1 Child 7
2 Children 32
3 Children 19
4 Children 14
5 Children

5
6 Children 4
7 Children 3
N/A 4

3.2. Method

Two questionnaires were filled: one for children’s performance [consisting of 16 statements, representing behavior variables] and one for mothers’ performance [18 statements representing behavior variables]. They were both completed by the mothers. Questionnaires were filled out in two stages: pre- and post- participation in the program. A 5-point scale was utilized for participants’ responses.

Questionnaire scores were entered into SPSS statistical software for analysis and interpretation. For data analysis, each part was divided into descriptive and analytical statistics to compare means and scores obtained as a first step, followed by a regression analysis to confirm that improving results were due to participation in the project, accordingly demonstrating the effectiveness of the program.

3.3. Results

The statistical data3 from the questionnaires were analyzed in great details by the authors and can be found in the full-text study. Following are a few highlights.

From descriptive statistics:

  • Mothers identified positive factors in their children’s intellectual abilities, including conversations skills, use of words, interest in learning and ability to recall events. With high agreement scores [4 to 5] to positive attributes and low agreement [1 to 2] to negative statements, mothers displayed an expectedly positive perception of their children, highlighting the extent to which the program has achieved an improvement in children’s behavior.
  • Mothers emphasized a healthy relationship with their children while expressing a willingness to improve in terms of behavior and interaction, both key to the healthy long-term development of children.
  • A descriptive aggregation of both child and mother behavior found that mothers play an active role in their child’s guidance while also being aware of their children’ behaviors, needs and problems, and act accordingly by using reward, punishment and supportive behaviors.

From post-scores analysis:

After obtaining post-scores and entering them into SPSS, means were obtained and compared to pre-score means. Scores’ variables were arranged according to positive statements, whereby mothers were found to be in higher agreement, and followed by negative statements where mothers were expected to disagree. When comparing pre-scores and post-scores, an improvement was recorded in children’s performance as well as mothers’ behaviors and relationship with their children, with an average increase of 8% with respect to positive statements and an average decrease of 14% with respect to negative statements: Mothers were less likely to engage in negative behaviors, with the most dramatic change being a decrease in the use of intimidating/abusive behavior by mothers.

Additional post-scores feedback was also possible:

  • For instance, 77.2% of the mothers claimed that open discussion of topics proved most beneficial to them, with family planning covered in MOCEP’s third component coming in second at 19.3%. Only 3.3% indicated that the cognitive training component was the most beneficial part of the program.
  • When asked about the contribution of home visits in the implementation of the program, a mean score of 4.34 (of 5) was recorded.
  • Mothers were equally enthusiastic about the helpfulness of the program in improving their child’s development, with a mean score of 4.92.
  • An identical mean score was recorded with respect to mothers strongly agreeing that the program helped them understand their children better.

4. Discussion: the Success of Pilot Implementation in Context

The pilot implantation of MOCEP in Lebanon was expected to yield a number of benefits for mother, child and community similar to positive results of long term studies in countries like Turkey and Bahrain (Bekman, 1998; Kagitcibasi, 1997). Overall, evaluation of the pilot demonstrated a positive impact on mothers and children in Palestinian refugee camps, where poverty levels are at their highest and opportunities for pre-school or employment are at their most dire. ARC, in cooperation with its partners, indicated specific objectives for the program:

  • Provide training for parents to support their role as their children’s first educators.
  • Empower mothers with the skills needed to enhance their children’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social development.
  • Prepare children for school and support their development.
  • Empower the mother with skills and attitudes, which will impact both her and her children’s wellbeing for years to come.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the 2nd step in the modular program, previously defined as the phase of training mothers across all three components of MOCEP.

Findings confirm the overall transferability of the program to Lebanon as well as the positive impact of attention to context within the refugee camps, an encouraging assessment for extending the pilot program.

Feedback from mothers indicated that the inclusion of the third component, Family Planning, was welcome with 19.3% of respondents citing it as the most beneficial part of the program. The results of the evaluation also confirm the findings of Bekman & Kocak (2011), whereby the success of MOCEP implementation is significantly attributed to the willingness of mothers to accept intervention and improve across all three components of the program.

With respect to long terms assessment of benefits, there remains an arguable point of contention that speaks to the lowly future prospects of those living in refugee camps. Unlike the experience in Bahrain or Turkey, Lebanon lacks in socio-economic policies that would supplement MOCEP. Kagitcibasi et al. (2009) found that even the most effective interventions at the earliest stage of development have "limited applicability for low income groups" (p. 777). This is attributed to less opportunities being available down the line for the poorest demographic, especially with regards to affording higher levels of education that capitalize on the increased cognitive function within the intervened group. Effectively, if improved school readiness does not translate into schooling or occupational opportunities, the benefits are somewhat negated.

That being said, it is legitimate to maintain that the benefit-cost ratios for programs with centre-based training and home-based implementation like MOCEP yield social and economic returns. While programs similar to MOCEP are clearly not a solution to socio-economic inequalities, the efficiency of early intervention with respect to individuals, communities and national growth makes for a compelling proposition. As such, education programs should not only be recognized as imperative within Lebanon, but also adopted by the Ministry of Education with a view towards funding and extension.

It is to be acknowledged that there were limitations related to the conditions of program implementation, for example:

  • The subjects’ lack of homogeneity in terms of educational background and their availability, which caused irregular attendance, and, in some cases, attrition.
  • The training sites being inadequately equipped (for example, no babysitting services during training).
  • The home environment was not always conducive to educational activities requiring concentration.

However, contextual/local challenges aside, and in looking back at the initial objectives of the program, the following can be noted:

  • The program was highly positive regarding addressing the needs of Palestinian refugees. Children’s cognitive skills were improved through training mothers on how to understand their children and behave accordingly. Mothers grew more aware of their children’s needs and became more apt at responding properly and fostering healthier communication.
  • As for reaching out to the target audience, mothers were satisfied with the content and implementation of the program, the trainers’ participation, topics covered and results achieved.
  • Concerning beneficiaries’ satisfaction, mothers were satisfied with the program, to the extent that they expressed their interest in having fathers participate in the program.

The pilot program is right on target, in line with its objectives, and yielded similarly significant results to ACEV’s findings on similar programs in other countries.

5. FUTURE RESEARCH DIRECTIONS4

Several limitations exist since implementation of the program depends not only on the program itself, but on the trainers as well. The extent to which trainers understood it, were able to deliver it to the mothers, and in turn to what extent mothers were able to apply it effectively and efficiently all affect the success rate.

The areas that could not be directly measured in this study include:

  • Trainers’ understanding of the program.
  • Trainers’ qualifications and skills required to implement the program successfully.
  • Trainers’ feedback regarding the program itself (materials, curriculum, etc.)
  • Trainers’ feedback regarding program implementation process.

Another main limitation in this study is that all measures regarding children’s performance were taken from the mothers’ point of view only. Therefore there’s a high probability of errors in judgment. For example, satisfaction of mothers might be colored by their high expectations of the program.

An additional limitation is that although the study included pre/post results to detect improvement, no control group was used to determine the extent to which the program was effective.

As this study deals with a complex subject of cognitive awareness and skills development in mothers and children, further research is suggested to determine in more detail what factors play a key role in the change and improvement of children and mothers, and how to best implement the program.

6. CONCLUSION

The objective of the present study was to present an evaluation of the pilot implementation of MOCEP in Lebanon, in the Palestinian refugee camps. High positive feedback was obtained regarding the content of the program, the trainers’ skills and the overall learning from the program, as perceived by mothers for application in daily life with their children.

  • Most of the mothers had a positive impression and expectations of the program, and willingly volunteered to participate.
  • Significant improvement in the performance level of both children and mothers were reported at the completion of the pilot phase.
  • Children had improved their cognitive and social skills and showed more interest in learning.
  • Mothers were happier and had a healthier relationship with their children.

The program also met mothers’ expectations in terms of usefulness and practicality: it has helped them mostly in identifying their children’s problems, a skill used on a daily basis. The most beneficial part of the program was the "Discussion Topics", as it seemed to encourage open discussion and sharing of points of view, hence better understanding of the topics at hand. Mothers also gave positive feedback about the program implementation in terms of trainers’ skills, and usefulness of information.

REFERENCES

  • Anne Cocuk E.itim Vakfi. (2013). MOCEP project profile. Retrieved from
    http://www.acev.org/en/en/egitim-duraklarimiz/2013-yili-projelerimiz
  • Bekman, S. (1998). A fair chance: An evaluation of the Mother-Child Education Program. Istanbul, Turkey: Mother-Child Education Foundation Publication. Retrieved from
    http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED426765.pdf (PDF)
  • Bekman, S. (2004). Early home intervention to promote school readiness: A Turkish experience.
    NHSA Dialog: A Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Childhood Field, 7(1), 16-34.
  • Bekman, S., & Kocak, A. (2011). Be. Ulkeden Anneler Anlat.yor I: Anne-Cocuk E.itim Program.
    Kimler .cin ve Neden Etkili? [Mothers reporting I: For whom and why is the Mother-Child
    Education Program Effective?]. E.itim ve Bilim, 36(160), 171-182.
  • Hadeed, J. (2004, October). The Mother-Child Home Education Programme. Paper presented at the International Conference on Early Childhood Development, Riyadh: Kingdom Saudi Arabia. Retrieved from
    https://uqu.edu.sa/files2/tiny_mce/plugins/filemanager/files/4260136/7_3.pdf (PDF)
  • Hadeed, J. (2005). Poverty begins at home: The Mother Child Home Education Programme (MOCEP) in the Kingdom of Bahrain. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Kagitcibasi, C. (1997). The Turkish Early Enrichment Project and the mother-child education program. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41(1), 70-72.
  • Kagitcibasi, C., Sunar, D., Bekman, S., Baydar, N., & Cemalcilar, Z. (2009). Continuing effects of early enrichment in adult life: The Turkish Early Enrichment Project 22 years later. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(6), 764-779.
  • Kocak, A., & Bekman, S. (2004). Mothers speaking: A study on the experience of mothers within the Mother-Child Education Programme (MOCEP). European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 12(1), 115-129.
  1. This is a significantly condense version of the original study published as chapter 14 in Education Applications & Developments, Advances in Education and Educational Trends Series, edited by Mafalda Carmo, published by In Science Press, Portugal, 2015.
  2. It is important to note that after piloting, ARC continued to implement MOCEP in Palestinian Refugee camps and neighboring communities in Lebanon. Currently, a third cycle is about to be completed.
  3. The statistical compilation and analysis was done by Mahmoud Awad, Lebanon.
  4. It is worth noting here that the current cycle of implementation included a scientific research on the impact of working with mothers through MOCEP on reducing domestic violence. The research was designed by the Child Studies Center at Yale University and jointly conducted with ARC.

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