Adapting an ECD Measurement Tool


Beyond Translation; Adaptation and Testing of IDELA in a Zanzibari Preschool

This study aimed to explore social-emotional skill among children attending a state-run preschool in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Specifically, we hoped to investigate the development of different components of emotion understanding. Emotion understanding, as a social competency, plays an important role in school adjustment for young children. It helps children to build positive relationships with peers and teachers, and is associated with a number of academic outcomes. Investigating what children in different cultures and socio-economic contexts understand about emotions can help us in the design of interventions seeking to strengthen social skills, and to design curricula to foster abilities such as recognising our own and others’ feelings and responding appropriately.

To assess emotion understanding in a Zanzibari preschool, we needed an instrument which would be sensitive to emotion understanding as a social competency, whilst being easy to administer in a low-resource setting. As the IDELA was designed for use in such environments and has been rigorously tested for its validity and reliability, it was particularly suitable for this project. Importantly, the IDELA did not rely on solid infrastructure (such as reliable electricity), or expensive materials: the participating preschool had basic electricity, but heavy rains meant it was frequently interrupted, whilst the administration of the IDELA took place in the school’s hall where there was no furniture or other equipment available.

The version of IDELA used for this project was the Kiswahili version, adapted for use in Tanzania. As Kiswahili is both the language of instruction in preschools, and the mother tongue of most of Zanzibar’s population, administering the IDELA in Kiswahili was considered the most appropriate option for the sample. However, Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region, with a rich culture, distinct from that of mainland Tanzania, which meant some adaptation was required to make sure each item could be easily understood and resonated with the participants’ daily lives. The main forms of adaptation were with regards to the images and language used.

IDELA partners share adaptations and translations. IDELA partners get access to a full suite of translated materials in more than 50 languages.

For Item 1 – Personal Awareness, children are asked, ‘are you a girl or a boy?’. In Zanzibar, children are taught to identify their gender with the words mwanamke (woman) and mwanaume (man), rather than the specific child-related terms, msichana (girl) and mvulana (boy). Changing the language used for this item therefore ensured the question aligned with the language of Zanzibar’s preschool curriculum.

For Item 12 – Sharing/Solving Conflict, children are asked to explain how they would resolve a hypothetical conflict over a toy. In Kiswahili there is no single word for ‘toy’. The Kiswahili version of the IDELA translates the term as kitu chako cha kuchezea unachokipenda (lit. ‘your thing for playing which you like’). In testing this item with children, we found it elicited fewer responses than other socio-emotional items. We hypothesised this may be due to the increased cognitive demand of the question: the language requires the child to imagine an item which can be played with which they like, in addition to a conflict over this ‘thing’. To address this, we tried preceding the item with the question: ‘Do you like to play with dolls or cars?’ (as both were found to be popular choices of toys for Zanzibari children). The enumerator would then adapt the item according to the child’s response. For example, ‘Imagine you are playing with your car, and another child wants to play with the car. But there is only one car. What would you do?’. This appeared effective insofar as the number of children who responded to the item (including incorrect responses) increased.

For Item 11 – Empathy/Perspective Taking, the adaptation guide encourages users to select and picture of a girl or boy crying which will be relatable for participants in the given context. For this study, we used the image of a girl with braided hair crying. This image had previously been used by Ubongo (Read more about Ubongo’s use of IDELA) when administering the IDELA to Tanzanian children, and provided an ethnically appropriate alternative to that of the original IDELA.

In adapting the IDELA we were reminded of how important it is to trial each item before attempting data collection. Our efforts to adapt were sometimes met with unexpected responses. For example, we initially thought a balloon could be an appropriate, gender neutral toy to use in the Solving Conflict item. However, although children were familiar with balloons, they seemed to dislike the idea of playing with them. After discussing this with a local preschool teacher, we discovered children are typically discouraged from playing with balloons as they are considered a safety hazard. When the purpose of adaptation is to allow the IDELA to generate meaningful and accurate data, the process of adaptation itself may have to be creative and iterative.

Adaptation of ECD measurement tools is critical to quality data collection. Watch IDELA’s Adaptation and Translation webinar for more insight into the process!

Hannah Ndandala is a graduate student at Oxford University studying education and child development, with a focus on early childhood education and education in low resource settings. For more information about her work, click here.