Journal of Early Childhood Care and Education
Vol. 1, 2017, 1-14
An Investigation of Curriculum Relevancy with the
Cognitive Development (Number Conservation
Ability) During Early Childhood Education
Ayaz Ahmad
*
Rabia Tabassum
**
R. A. Farooq
***
Abstract
The study was aimed at observing the number conservation ability of Early
Childhood (Pre-primary children) to test the Piaget’s theory of cognitive
development. The major objective of the study was to investigate the
relevance of curriculum with cognitive development of Early Childhood
(Pre-primary) children. An empirical research design was used. All the
government and private Early Childhood (Pre-primary children) of Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa were population of the study. 240 students of pre-primary
children were taken as a sample of the study. For data collection,
observation sheets were developed. Statistical technique of chi-square was
applied to analyze the collected data. It was found that primary school
children of age 3 to 5 were not number conservers at any case. Hence it
was concluded that Early Childhood (Pre-primary children) were not
found to be number conservers which reflects that the level of number
concepts (numeracy) given in National curriculum (Mathematics) ECE
2002 (3 to 5 years) was higher than the cognitive level of Early Childhood
(Pre-primary children) and hence it was not found to be suitable (with
respect to number conservancy) due to the non-conservancy of the Early
Childhood (Pre-primary children). It is recommended that the number
concepts (numeracy) given in National Curriculum for Mathematics ECE
2002 (3 to 5 years) to be revised according to the cognitive level of Early
Childhood (Pre-primary children). It should be reviewed on the basis of
indigenous research studies.
Keywords: early childhood curriculum, cognitive development,
conservation of number, pre-primary level.
*
Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Northern University Nowshera KPK.
Email: ayaza10@gmail.com
**
Professor & Head of Department of Education, Northern University Nowshera
KPK. Email: rabiatabassum227@gmail.com
***
Dean Faculty of Arts & amp; Social Sciences, Northern University Nowshera
KPK.Email:drfarooqch43@gmail.com
Ahmad, Tabassum & Farooq 2
Introduction
The role of education in developing a nation, morally, culturally,
politically, and economically can never be underestimate. Islam stressed
much on every man and woman to gain knowledge from the birth to the
end. The importance of education is emphasized by the first revelation of
the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was “Read in the name of Allah, Who
created you”. Through education we can understand and resolve our
daily as well societal problems (Government. of Pakistan, 1998).
For any country, primary education serves as a foundation stone of
education which comprises Grades I-V. The curriculum includes the
skills, to read write, arithmetic, and the main subjects includes, Social
Studies, Islamiyat, General Science, English, Mathematics, Urdu, and
Physical activities (Government. of Pakistan, 1998).
Relevant curriculum is considered to be an important factor which
can influence/change the performance of the students (Kiani et al., 2012).
Throughout the world whenever curriculum is designed, or other learning
activities are being planned, student’s opinion or voices cannot be
ignored. For example, a curriculum should supplements the learners with
respect to new challenges in his society, and the world. It should increase
the involvement of students, to learn, and to be become well-set,
physically, personally and socially in order to serve for their society and
international community (Hussain et al., 2013).
In this modern era, the voice of student is significantly considered
for the advancement and improvement of learning process (Mitra, 2004).
While in Pakistan, the process of curriculum development is as follows:
First of all, the Curriculum Wing (CW) of Pakistan send a letter to all
provincial centers of curriculum development and ask to make an outline
or abstract for every course/subject for Grade I-XII. These centers then
ask a panel of experts to make a blue print of the document for Grade I-
XII. This blue print is then forwarded to Curriculum Wing for further
process. The Curriculum Wing circulates these documents to their panel
of experts and asked to give their statement of opinions, and then it is
send to Curriculum Wing. The Curriculum Wing closely checks out the
draft and endures its proposals to the Ministry of Education (MoE) for
the approval. Secretary of Education accords the approval of the
document and forwarded it to the provincial centers for arrangements of
textbooks (Siddique & Sultan, 2008).
National Bureau of Curriculum and Textbooks (NBCT), the second
name of Curriculum Wing have the responsibility to tackle all matters
related to textbooks, curriculum document, its approval, development
and maintenance of standards from Grade I-XII. The provincial centers
are the integral parts of the Curriculum Wing and they all ensure
An Investigation of Curriculum Relevancy with the Cognitive Development… 3
collaboration, and cooperation with National Bureau of Curriculum and
Textbooks (Hussain et al., 2013). After the preparation and publishing the
books by provincial textbook boards, they stock it and distribute it to the
required destinations (Hussain et al., 2013). There are two types of
Curricula used in Pakistan; one is ECE (Early Childhood Education) 2002
(3 to 5 years), which is for pre-primary classes that is play group/KG,
Nursery, and Prep, and the other one is National Curriculum 2006 for
Grade I-XII, which comprised Primary (Class I-V), Middle (Class VI-
VIII), Secondary (Class IX-X), and Higher Secondary (Class XI-XII).
Literature Review
The curriculum of mathematics, especially the concept of number, is
introduced mostly in the light of foreign studies results which are not
appropriate for Pakistani children who fail in mathematics. Indigenous
studies in a large number are required to find out the attainment age of
number conservation so that the concept of number is introduced at
appropriate age. Children can understand the concept of number only
when they have the ability of number conservation. The purpose of the
study was to investigate the relevance of curriculum with the cognitive
development of children.
It was Piaget, who for the first time introduced the four qualitatively
different phases of mental development in individuals (Mooney, 2000).
The first phase is called sensorimotor stage, which is started from birth to
2 years. The child at this stage can only use their senses to understand the
world. Piaget’s second stage of cognitive development is named as pre-
operational stage, which is from 2 to 6/7 years. Through language and
mental images they can understand the world. Concrete operational is the
third stage of mental development, started from 6/7 to 11 years. Logical
thinking is the characteristic of this stage. The fourth and final stage of
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is formal operational stage,
which is started from 11/12 to 19 years. To reason scientifically and to
think hypothetically is the quality of this stage (Sand well, 2004).
Cognition means higher mental processes by which the child
understands the world around him, processes information obtained from
the environment, makes judgments about the information and
communicates his knowledge to others. In this way, according to Piaget,
children construct their own knowledge and behave like a scientist
(Rahman, 2011).
Children at the concrete operational stage are considered by Piaget as
thinking logically they can perform physical actions mentally but they
can think so only about real situations, not hypothetical situations.
Important processes during this stage are:
Ahmad, Tabassum & Farooq 4
De-centering: At concrete operational stage, the child can think about
multiple aspects of a task to resolve it.
Reversibility: It is the computation through which an individual is able
to sense that numbers or objects/coins can be changed
and then returned to their original state.
Conservation: The children at concrete operational stage can
understand that quantity, length, or numbers of items
remain constant and unrelated to the arrangement or
appearance of the objects or items.
Seriation: Organization of entities/objects in a series by with
respect to their length, magnitude or any characteristics.
Classification: It is the ability of these children to categorize sets of
object according to appearance, size or other
characteristic (Seifert & Sutton, 2009).
At concrete operational stage, children can perform operations
(mental actions) requiring logic such as conservation. Conservation
ability is the most fundamental achievement of concrete operational
stage. Conservation is the consummation that value/volume remains the
same despite changes in their physical arrangement (Ojose, 2008).
Conservation ability is probably the most famous of all logical
operations associated with the stage of concrete operations (Cook, 2005).
The ability of conservation is the knowledge of a child at this stage that
quantity is unrelated to the physical appearance of objects (Salkind,
2008). Conservation gives us the concept that definite physiological
attributes of coins/ buttons remains same despite physical
rearrangements. Concrete operational children have the ability to deal
with conservation tasks (Cook, 2005).
Consequently, children remain at the third phase which is named as
concrete operational stage of mental development during most of
elementary school. Elementary school students begin to use adult form of
logic, but they can apply their new-found logic only to concrete
situations. In other words, they can think logically about things they can
experience in real situation but not about the hypothetical situations.
Children at the concrete operation stage look at the world and interpret
situations concretely and literally, not abstractly (Lutz & Huitt, 2004).
According to the literature and Piaget’s research, children have
acquired liquid conservation ability by the age of eight years.
Conservation of number, length, and liquid is developed in most children
at the age group of 6 to 7 (Haroon, 2005). Systematic, quantitative and
logical thinking is the characteristic of an individual at this stage.
An Investigation of Curriculum Relevancy with the Cognitive Development… 5
Types of Conservation
There are seven major types of conservation:
1. Number
2. Length
3. Area
4. Mass
5. Volume
6. Liquid
7. Weight
Conservation of Number
In the number conservation task which is Piaget’s most famous task
is, two identical; rows of buttons/coins are presented in front of an
individual. Then he is inquire/quest to say whether the two rows have an
equal number of buttons/coins, and he/she usually says yes. Then one
row of objects is spread out or congested before the eyes of child and the
child is then asked if one row has more objects or not, those individuals,
whose age group is above 6 to 7 years will answer in ‘no’ and can their
response by saying one row has more or other row has less number of
objects while older children usually answer yes and justify their answer
appropriately (Haroon, 2005; Salkind, 2008).
According to Piaget, children of age group 6 to 7, acquire the number
conservation ability. In the first stage (birth to 2 years), the children were
unable to create exact correspondence or set equivalence. These children
are still formulating basic numerical concepts. In the second stage (2 to 7
years), the children formed equal sets but when the appearance of one line
was changed they believed that one element of the set had more. In the
third stage (7 to 11 years), the children, despite the change in visual
appearance, recognized that quantity had not changed, and were able to
provide a justification for their evaluation. These children are said to have
developed conservation of number (Crawford, 2008).
Number Conservation Ability
Conservation ability is probably the most famous of all logical
operations associated with the stage of concrete operations (Cook, 2005).
The ability of conservation is the knowledge of a child at this stage that
quantity is unrelated to the physical appearance of objects (Salkind,
2008). Conservation gives us the concept that definite physiological
attributes of coins/ buttons remains same despite physical
rearrangements. Concrete operational children have the ability to deal
with conservation tasks (Cook, 2005).
Ahmad, Tabassum & Farooq 6
Objective of the Study
The major objective of the study was to investigate the relevance of
curriculum with cognitive development (NumberConservation Ability)
during Early Childhood Education
Delimitation of the Study
The study was delimited to the children of age group 3 to 5 only; that
is 3 to 5 years comprised Early Childhood Education (Pre-primary
children). As the study was conducted to test the Piaget’s theory with
respect to number conservation ability, therefore the researcher selected
only number concepts (numeracy) from mathematics curriculum for
Early Childhood Education.
Methodology
Research Design
An empirical research design was used to conduct the study.
Figure11: Empirical research design
An Investigation of Curriculum Relevancy with the Cognitive Development… 7
Population
All the 764,743 including boys 388,421 and girls 376,322 early
childhood (pre-primary) children of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were constitute
the population of the study (Govt. of Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa, 2014).
Sample
By using convenient sampling method, 240 were selected as a
sample of the study. The sample students were observed to test the
ability of number conservation according to Piaget’s theory of cognitive
development. The names of schools from which sample was selected are:
Sampled Schools (Urban Government) in District Swabi
i. Government Primary School Mathani Changan Tordher
ii. Government Girls Primary School Saifur Banda Tordher
Sampled Schools (Urban Private) in District Swabi
i. The Iqra Public School and College Tordher ( for Boys)
ii. The Iqra Public School and College Tordher (for Gilrs)
Sampled Schools (Rural Government) in District Swabi
i. Government Primary School No.1 Jalsai
ii. Government Girls Primary School No. 4 Jalsai
Sampled Schools (Urban Private) in District Swabi
i. Star Public School Jalsai (for Boys)
ii. Star Public School Jalsai (for Girls)
Research Instrument
Twenty medium size, red colored plastic buttons were used for the
experiment.
Research Questions
As the study was aimed to investigate Piaget’s claim of conservation
of number and the results of subsequent research in Pakistani context, the
Ahmad, Tabassum & Farooq 8
following research questions will be addressed.
Piaget claims: Children below 6 to 7 years are non-conservers of
number (Berk, 2005; Borst, 2012; Crawford, 2008;
Muller, 2005; Neys et al., 2014; Richardson, 2006).
Research question: Do Pakistani children keep the same characteristic?
Procedure of the Study
The experiment was based on Piaget’s task of conservation of
number. The researcher conducted the experiment in following way:
Task 1
The subject children were presented two rows of equal length
containing the same number of buttons (placed on a table, as shown
below). The subject children were asked.
1. Whether the two rows are identical? (Neys et al., 2014).
2. If the answer is ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, then why/how much? (Neys et al., 2014).
Task 2
One of the rows was spread apart so that one is longer than the other (as
shown below) and the subject children were asked.
1. Now, whether the two rows are identical? (Neys et al., 2014).
2. If the answer is ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, then why/how much now? (Neys et
al., 2014).
The experiment was conducted in a quiet room and the subject
children were called upon one by one.
Scoring Data
The responses obtained from the subjects were scored by assigning 1
mark to each correct answer and ‘0 mark to the wrong answer. The total
conserver score of the subject on two tasks thus ranged between zero and four.
An Investigation of Curriculum Relevancy with the Cognitive Development… 9
Thus, the children who answered all questions correctly were
assigned ‘4’ marks and were classified as number conservers and those
who obtained less than two marks were classified as non-conservers,
while those who obtained ‘2’ or ‘3’ marks were considered as
transitional. The number of children in each category, that is, at each age
level was converted into percentages and the results were presented in
the form of tables.
Collection of Data
Data were collected through primary data and secondary data.
Primary data were collected through an observation sheet. Secondary
data was the curricula of Early Childhood Education (Mathematics) 2002
(3 to 5 years). The numeracy (number concepts) of mathematics
curriculum was analyzed with respect to number conservation ability.
Analysis of Data
The collected data were analyzed through statistical tool, such as chi-
square in order find out the significant difference between the groups
(private and government children). The 50 percent criteria were adopted
in order to determine the attainment age of number conservation
(Haroon, 2005).
Findings
It is clear from the table 01 that the chi-square value (189.06) of
early childhood (pre-primary) children (3 to 5 years) was significant at α
= 0.05. It shows that there was significant difference in the frequency
early childhood (pre-primary) number conservers. The percentage values
(0, 7.5, 28.75) of early childhood (pre-primary) children (3 to 5 years)
was less than 50 percent, it reveals that the early childhood (pre-primary)
children of age group 3 to 5 were found to be not number conservers.
Ahmad, Tabassum & Farooq 10
Table 1
Significance of Difference in the Frequency of Number Conservers
Among 3 to 5 Years Old Early Childhood (pre-primary) Children
Age group
N
3
Year
4
year
5
Year
Total
2
0
6
23
29
240
0
7.5
28.75
36.25
2
189.06
Table Value of
2
=11.071
0
6
23
3 years
4 years
5 years
0
5
10
15
20
25
Figure 2: Frequency of number conservers of age group 3 to 5 years old
early childhood pre-primary children
Discussion
The present research was conducted to measure the number
conservation ability among Early Childhood (pre-primary) children (3 to
5 years) of Pakistan according to Piaget’s theory of cognitive
development. It was found that Early Childhood (pre-primary) children
of age 3 to 5 were not number conserver at any case. This result is same
as the result of researches conducted by Agger (2007), and Muller (2005)
they tested 3 to 5 years old children on Piaget’s number conservation
task. They explored that the preoperational children of age group 3 and 5
do not have the number conservancy at any way. A study conducted by
An Investigation of Curriculum Relevancy with the Cognitive Development… 11
Neys et al., (2014) also concluded that the individuals of the age group 2
to 6/7 do not have the number conservancy. After investigating 45
kindergarten boys and 41 kindergarten girls on Piaget’s number
conservation task by Miller and Hiller (1976), they concluded that 5
years old children are non-conservers. So the Piaget claims (Children
below 6 to 7 years are non-conservers of number) is proved.
Hence, it was concluded that Early Childhood (Pre-primary children)
were not found to be number conservers which reflects that the level of
number concepts (numeracy) given in National curriculum
(Mathematics) ECE 2002 (3 to 5 years) was higher than the cognitive
level of Early Childhood (Pre-primary children) and hence it was not
found to be suitable (with respect to numeracy/number concepts) due to
the non-conservancy of the Early Childhood (Pre-primary) children.
Conclusion
The present research was conducted to measure the number
conservation ability among Early Childhood (pre-primary) children (3 to
5 years) of Pakistan according to Piaget’s theory of cognitive
development. It was found that Early Childhood (pre-primary) children
of age 3 to 5 were not number conserver at any case.Hence, it was
concluded that Early Childhood (Pre-primary) children were not found to
be number conservers which reflects that the level of number concepts
(numeracy) given in National curriculum (Mathematics) ECE 2002 (3 to
5 years) was higher than the cognitive level of Early Childhood (Pre-
primary children) and hence it was not found to be suitable (with respect
to numeracy/number concepts) due to the non-conservancy of the Early
Childhood (Pre-primary) children.
Recommendations
It is recommended that the number concepts (numeracy) given in
National Curriculum for Mathematics ECE 2002 (3 to 5 years) to be
revised according to the cognitive level of Early Childhood (Pre-primary
children). It should be reviewed on the basis of indigenous research
studies.
Ahmad, Tabassum & Farooq 12
References
Agger, C. (2007). Conservation of number task with small and large
quantities on male and female preschool children. Indiana
Undergraduate Journal of Cognitive Science 2 , 28-32.
Berk, L. E. (2005). Infants and children. Boston: Pearson Rducation, Inc.
Borst, G.,Poirel,N., Pineau,A.,Cassotti,M. & Houde,O. (2012). Inhibitory
control in number conservation and class inclusion tasks: A Neo
Piagetian inter-task priming study. Cognitive Development, 27(3), 283-
298.
Cook, J. L. (2005). Child development principles & perspectives. Boston:
Allyn & Bacon.
Crawford, T. (2008). Does working with sets contribute to conservation of
numbers for young children? (Unpublished Master Thesis).Saint Mary’s
College,California.
Government of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. (2014). Annual statistical report of
govt schools 2014-15. Retrieved from http://www.kpese.gov.pk.
Government of Pakistan (1998). National education policy. Islamabad:
Ministry of Education.
Government of Pakistan (2002). National curriculum early childhood
Education(3 to 5 years). Islamabad: Ministry of Education.
Lutz, S., & Huitt, W. (2004). Connecting cognitive development and
constructivism: Implications from theory for instruction and assesment.
Constructivism in the Human Sciences,9 (1), 67-90.
Haroon, N. (2005). Comparison of rural and urban primary school children
in the liquid conservation ability according to Piaget’s theory of
cognitivedevelopment (Unpublished Master Thesis).University of Arid
Agriculture,Rawalpindi.
An Investigation of Curriculum Relevancy with the Cognitive Development… 13
Hussain, S., Sarwar, M., Bashir, M., & Shah, A. A. (2013). Students’
perceptions of improving secondary school curriculum in
Pakistan.Education, 3 (1), 15-19.
Kiani, M. N., Malik, S., & Ahmad, S. I. (2012). Teaching of mathematics in
Pakistan: Problems and suggestions.Language in India, 12, 293-305.
Miller, P., & Hiller, S. (1976). Facilitation of attention to number and
conservation of number.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology , 455-
467.
Mitra, D. (2004). The significance of students: Can increasing ‘student voice’
in schools to gains in youth development. Teachers College Record,
106(4), Retrieved onfrom http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/
public/publ/research/publ/Student_Voice_report.pdf.
Mooney, C. G. (2000). An introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson,
Piaget, and Vygostky. St. Paul, MN: Red Leaf Press.
Muller, U. (2005). A structured observation of conservation tasks with a four
years old child Cheryl Meyer. British Columbia: University of Victoria.
Neys, W. D., Lubin, A., & Houde, O. (2014). The smart non-conserver:
Preschoolers detect their numberconservation errors. Child Development
Research. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cdr/
2014/768186/.
Ojose, B. (2008). Applying Piaget's theory of cognitive development to
mathematics instructions.The Mathematics Educator, 18 (1), 26-30.
Rahman, F. (2011). Assesment of Science Teachers Metacognitive Awareness
and its Impact on the Performance of Students (Unpublished Dotorate
Thesis).Allama Iqbal Open University,Islamabad.
Richardson, F. M. (2006). Computational modeling of variability in the
consevation task: Proceedings of the 28th Annual Conference of the
Conitive Science Society. Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Salkind, N. J.& Rasmussen,K. (2008). Encyclopedia of educational
psychology. USA: SAGE Publication, Inc.
Ahmad, Tabassum & Farooq 14
Sandwell, J. (2004). Piaget's stage theory of development. Edmonton
Alberta, Canada: University of Alberta.
Seifert, K., & Sutton, R. (2009). Educational psychology. Zurich,
Switzerland: Jacobs Foundation.
Siddique, T., & Sultan, I. F. (2008). School curriculum, Lahore:
Pakistan,Majeed Book Depot.
Citation of this Article:
Ahmad, A., Tabassum, R., & Farooq, R.A. (2017). An investigation of
curriculum relevancy with the cognitive development (number
conservation ability) during early childhood education. Journal of Early
Childhood Care and Education, 1, 1-14.