CIES 2023 Formal Panel Session on IDELA: Stronger evidence for the most vulnerable children: promising practices in assessing developmental outcomes in humanitarian settings and other vulnerable contexts


Stronger evidence for the most vulnerable children: promising practices in assessing developmental outcomes in humanitarian settings and other vulnerable contexts

Sun, February 19, 6:30 to 8:00pm EST (6:30 to 8:00pm EST), Grand Hyatt Washington

As the world emerges from the worst shock to public health in a century, governments and stakeholders across countries and at all levels of society – from parents to teachers to communities – confront the losses in the learning attainment of children of all ages. For children in low- and middle-income countries, the pandemic resulted in a sharp increase in longstanding learning inequities and the loss of crucial gains achieved over the previous decades. By recent estimates, 7 out of 10 children in low- and middle-income countries suffer from learning poverty. Widening inequities within most countries implies that education losses are likely to have been even worse for some sub-groups, including children in humanitarian settings and other vulnerable populations.

While the global community continues to debate on the best approaches to track progress towards SDG target 4.2, the need for data-driven interventions that fight learning inequities among the youngest children has never been so urgent. Also, the effective use of measurement tools that can track progress and estimate the impact of education efforts remains a challenge in many settings.

Launched in 2014, the International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) is a free-to-use rigorous global tool that measures children’s early learning and development. More than 850 partners across 80 countries, including 132 organizations and academic institutions, have relied on IDELA to understand the developmental status of children in a varied of settings including community-based centers, daycares, government preschools, home-based learning, virtual learning, parenting programs and more. Over the last 8 years this data has helped governments, and multiple stakeholders identifying inequities preventing children from attaining key milestones, measuring the impact of interventions to help children be ready to learn, and guiding system-level decisions on how to improve the implementation of best practices in Early Childhood Care and Development. Thanks to these efforts, Save the Children now hosts the world’s largest repository of school readiness data. Despite the increased availability of early learning data over the last decades, the challenge of generating evidence about children in the most vulnerable contexts remains formidable.

This panel convenes a group of stakeholders working towards bringing better learning outcomes for young children in the context of humanitarian, relief, aid, and inclusion-centered efforts focused on children from historically marginalized sub-groups. It gathers the diverse perspectives of experts from non-governmental organizations and academia who will share promising practices, challenges, and the opportunities ahead in terms of generating more and better evidence for the most vulnerable children.

The first presentation addresses the question of how child performance on a remote adaptation of the IDELA compares with performance on the traditional in-person tool. Given the difficulty of in-person data collection, often, within conflict-affected, remote, or otherwise challenging contexts, it is important to understand when and for whom a remote tool might work as well, if not better, than an in-person one. This paper directly compares performance among children randomly assigned to one modality or the other in order to assess both any difference in average performance as well as any possible moderation effects by child age, gender, or temperament.

The second presentation addresses the challenges of measuring early development in emergency contexts, and the importance of ensuring that measurement tools are sensitive and adapted to contextual aspects. The authors describe the process of adapting IDELA to measure the development of Rohingya children residing in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Results from data collected from a sample of 282 children assessed with the adapted IDELA tool are presented, along with a discussion of the challenges of collecting high-quality data in emergency contexts.

The third presentation addresses the need to strengthen tools for collecting developmental data for young children with disabilities in low-income contexts. It describes the process of enhancing existing IDELA adaptation guidelines to cover a broader range of disabilities, allowing collection of assessment data from 253 young children with disabilities in 18 pre-schools in peri-urban, rural, and refugee areas in Kenya. The authors discuss the challenges of collecting inclusive data on children with disabilities, tool validity and comparability implications, and the need for further work to build the knowledge base in this field.

The last presentation takes stock of the lessons learned during the eight years since the launch of IDELA. It reflects on its role in global efforts to track progress and measure the effectiveness of interventions to improve developmental outcomes of children among the most vulnerable in the world. The presentation highlights challenges and opportunities for global measurement of early childhood development, and invites partners to engage in further discussion on the methodological innovations that are most needed to increase IDELA’s scope and outreach and to enhance partner’s capabilities to collect more and better evidence for the most vulnerable children.

The panel concludes with a discussion on potential strategies to overcome data collection challenges in complex settings and scale up early learning measurement efforts that can contribute to reducing learning inequities among the most vulnerable children.



  1. Assessing child development in challenging circumstances: a direct comparison of performance across remote and in person modalities of the IDELA
  2. Measuring early childhood development in Rohingya refugee contexts: Adaptation and validation of the IDELA with extensions
  3. Adaptation and use of IDELA for young children with disabilities in Kenya
  4. Taking stock of eight years of IDELA: learned lessons and the future ahead