The first years of life are critical in shaping children’s cognitive, social and language skills, as well as their lifelong capacity for learning. Early development and learning experiences determine future success in school and in life. Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) programs ensure healthy development in young children to enable them to reach their full potential.

  • Would you like to document the impact of ECCD programs?
  • What skills do children bring to school on their first day?
  • Are there accessible and reliable tools to measure children’s development and early learning?
  • How can ECCD programs boost equity?

The International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) is an easy-to-use, rigorous global tool that measures children’s early learning and development. IDELA provides ECCD programs, donors, and government partners with evidence on the status of children aged 3.5 to 6 years.

Development and Validation of IDELA

Save the Children is committed to implementing effective programs grounded in strong evidence. Few international tools can measure the impact of ECCD interventions across various settings. In 2011, based on lessons learned from years of early childhood programming and a comprehensive review of existing child development assessment tools, Save the Children began the process of creating and validating IDELA.

In the first phase, more than 60 items were tested. This phase reviewed five developmental domains with the goal of narrowing down the instrument to the most reliable and feasible items to be used across countries and contexts with 3.5-6 year old children. Testing and modifying over three years in multiple sites across 12 different countries resulted in a 24-item assessment that balances three key dimensions:

  • psychometric rigor
  • accessibility and feasibility
  • international applicability

The result is a tool that is easily translated and administered in low-resource settings and which has strong reliability and validity.

A Leader in ECCD Programming

Save the Children has worked for over 20 years to develop and support ECCD programs and policies that benefit young children and their families. Our programs:

  • extend to 75 countries globally
  • reach more than 2.1 million vulnerable young children annually
  • seek to build rigorous evidence for ECCD programs nationally, regionally and globally

What does IDELA measure?

IDELA provides a holistic picture of children’s development and learning covering four core developmental domains:

  • motor development
  • emergent language and literacy
  • emergent numeracy/problem solving
  • social-emotional skills

Tasks, which are designed as play with children and rely on locally sourced materials, focus on skills like:

  • hopping
  • oral language
  • letter knowledge
  • emergent writing
  • understanding feelings
  • self-awareness
  • solving conflict
  • simple operations
  • problem solving
  • measurement and comparison

Add-on items to the core IDELA assessment measure inhibitory control, memory, and children’s learning approaches.

Evidence-based Programs Around the World

To date, IDELA has been used in over 70 countries to successfully evaluate ECCD programs and provide reliable information to programs, communities, donors, and government partners. Evidence on child outcomes supports continuous improvement and highlights strengths and weaknesses in ECCD programs. IDELA captures age variation, equity factors, programmatic impact and quality across different types of interventions.

Content Validity

A series of analyses were conducted using data from 11 countries and 5,300 children to test item integrity and the strength of domain-specific subscales within the assessment. The full assessment and all subscales had strong internal consistency. Further exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis conducted by researchers at the Transforming Interventions Effectiveness and Scale (TIES) Center at New York University using an IDELA sample from Ethiopia confirmed the presence of an overall factor and four strong sub-factors.

Policy, Advocacy and National Monitoring

IDELA can answer questions on effectiveness of ECCD programs and systems. IDELA can be used for:

  • program evaluation
  • randomized control trials
  • comparison of different ECCD interventions
  • school readiness assessment at Grade 1 entry
  • national monitoring of ECCD programs

Data from different countries shed light on the skills children bring to school and areas where stronger program inputs are needed. This information can help governments and programs monitor progress towards ECCD goals and highlight effective initiatives for young children.