A Cross-Cultural Study of Preschool Quality in South Korea and Sweden: ECERS Evaluations.

Sheridan, S.; Giota, J.; Han, Y.-M.; Kwon, J.-Y.
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24(2), S.142-156.


The objective of this study is to examine the quality of preschool institutions in two different contexts: Sweden and South Korea. The study has two objectives: 1. A study of cross-cultural similarities and differences in preschool quality in South Korea and Sweden. 2. A comparison of the reliability of a Swedish national adaptation (Kärrby, 1989) and a South Korean national adaptation (Lim, 1983) of ECERS (Harms & Clifford, 1980), used to evaluate preschool quality.


The Swedish random sample scores higher than the average on all six sub-scales as well on the total scale in the ECERS compared with the South Korean random sample. Child-adult ratios are better in Sweden than in South Korea. In South Korea children are organised in age-homogeneous groups, whereas groups in Sweden are organised in groups with siblings and older children. In general, the study finds poorer preschool quality in the South Korean kindergartens. One explanation can be the limited physical space, for example lack separate spaces for learning and relaxation, as well as the physical arrangement of rooms. Children’s access to rooms where they can be alone or with just a few of their friends is a
quality aspect that separates these two random samples most. Another quality aspect, which separates the random samples, is related to time and place for relaxation.
Results show that the majority of the South Korean kindergartens have great focus on developing the children’s academic skills, such as helping the children to understand language and concepts through a more rigid timetable planned by teachers. In the Swedish kindergartens, the timetable is more flexible, which enables a wider range of content and activities, both indoors and outdoors. In many of these activities, play and learning are considered as integrated dimensions. Most kindergartens in the two countries do not seem to make children aware of multi-cultural issues or inter-cultural skills. If anything, primary focus is to introduce the country’s own culture and traditions. Answering the second research question: The total ECERS score and most of the sub-scales represent meaningful aspects in the pedagogical environment in both countries, which makes the tool suitable for meaningful, cross-cultural comparisons of preschool quality.


This study is based on stratified and random samples of childcare programmes in two cities; Gothenburg in Sweden and Seoul in South Korea. The strategically selected daycare centres represent children with different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Eight-hour observations were carried out of 24 preschool rooms from the 24 centres included using ”The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale” (ECERS). Observations were combined with interviews with teachers.


Sheridan, S.; Giota, J.; Han, Y.-M.; Kwon, J.-Y. (2009). A Cross-Cultural Study of Preschool Quality in South Korea and Sweden: ECERS Evaluations. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24(2), S.142-156.

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