Measuring Early Learning and Development for Roma Children


Measuring Early Learning and Development for Roma Children

Presenters: Olena Global (Step-by-Step Foundation Ukraine); Luke Heinkel (Results for Development); Lauren Pisani (Save the Children)
Presenters: Olena Global (Step-by-Step Foundation Ukraine); Luke Heinkel (Results for Development); Lauren Pisani (Save the Children)

Save the Children and partners from the Step-by-Step Foundation in Ukraine and Results for Development (R4D) in collaboration with the Step-by-Step Foundation in Serbia attended the 2017 World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) conference in Opatija, Croatia to speak about how IDELA is being used to measure the effectiveness of early childhood development (ECD) programs for improving the school readiness of Roma children.

Measuring What Works for Roma Children

Inequality in Roma children’s lives begins early and has long-lasting impacts. Children’s early learning environments in the home and in preschools develop the foundations of cognitive and social-emotional skills, which affect academic achievement and socioeconomic success later in life (Link 1). Research has found that Roma households are 3 times more likely to be at risk of living in poverty than their non-Roma neighbors, and only 32 percent of 3-6 year old Roma children are enrolled in preschool, compared to 77 percent of their non-Roma peers (Link 2). Results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) find that by the time Roma children reach age 15, they are 3-4 years behind their non-Roma peers in learning skills (Link 3). Limited learning and development support for Roma children early in their lives undermines not only their school readiness but also their chances of achieving higher educational levels and employment skills later in life.

A struggle for organizations working to support Roma families is that limited information is available about the quality of early learning opportunities for Roma children and the effects of these programs on children’s development. However, recently Roma Education Fund (REF) and the Open Society Foundation (OSF) have invested in gathering more evidence about the conditions in which Roma children are living and learning, as well as the effects of ECD programs on their lives. Both organizations and their grantees are now using Save the Children’s International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) to build evidence about Roma children’s early skills.

Evidence to Date

This panel included evidence from Albania, Serbia and Ukraine that is beginning to fill the gaps in knowledge about Roma children’s early learning and development skills.

The Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation in cooperation with State Educational Inspection of Ukraine presented on their use of the IDELA tool to measure the quality of ongoing ECD programs in Ukraine that aim to improve mentoring support and training of ECD facilitators, as well as training on social justice and caregiver practices for Roma parents. One of the steps in the project was a preschool assessment to identify the knowledge and capacities of children over time. Attention was focused on determining the difference between the skills of Roma children and their non-Roma peers in order to further efforts to overcome these gaps. Cross-sectional data collected at the beginning and end of the school year found that although all children gain skills throughout the year, the gap between the skills of Roma children and their non-Roma peers was not reduced.

Results for Development Institute (R4D), in collaboration with Deep Dive and the Centre for Interactive Pedagogy and Romanipen presented baseline evidence from an impact evaluation of Roma parenting program being implemented by the Step-by-Step Foundation in fifteen communities throughout Serbia. The evaluation is using the IDELA tool alongside a caregiver questionnaire to gain an understanding of changes in children’s skills as well as their home environments. Baseline results showed equivalence between the intervention and control groups, which lays a strong foundation against which to measure change during the midline (November 2017) and endline assessments (November 2018).

Save the Children shared evidence from their 2017 global ECCD report, as well as recent evidence from a program in Albania funded by Roma Education Fund and the MEDICOR Foundation that focuses on providing equitable access for Roma children and disadvantaged non-Roma children between the age of 0-6 to inclusive and integrated ECCD services & quality education.

The IDELA data collected at the beginning of this three year intervention found significant differences between the school readiness skills of Roma children and their non-Roma peers.

Next Steps

All three projects highlighted in this OMEP panel have plans to continue gathering evidence about the effectiveness of their programs for improving the skills and learning conditions of Roma children in the communities they serve.

This will allow implementers and partners to make data-drive decisions about ways forward with their support for Roma communities. It will also produce much needed evidence that can be used for advocacy with local and national government partners as well as donors.