Beyond Access: Exploring Equity in Early Childhood Development


Beyond Access is the third in a series of reports from Save the Children that uses IDELA data to inform knowledge, policy and programming in early childhood education.

Author: Save the Children
Date: June 5, 2018
Countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, USA, Vietnam, Zambia



Incorporating data from 38 sites and over 20,000 children, the report answers three central research questions:

1. How does the relationship between age and IDELA scores inform our understanding of the pace of development and readiness for primary school across different contexts?
2. What skills do children display in the areas of literacy, motor, numeracy and social-emotional development as they enter primary school?
3. How is children’s early learning and development related to gender, socio-economic status, and home learning environment?

Results suggest that children gain knowledge with age, but that there are large variations between children’s skills within age groups. At age six, less than one-third of children displayed mastery of IDELA content in the areas of literacy, numeracy and social-emotional development. Analyses also find that stronger socioeconomic status, access to reading materials and toys, frequent caregiver-child activities, and freedom from harsh discipline promote stronger learning and development.

In conclusion, 3 – 5 year old children are in a critical period of brain development, but also a vulnerable stage which often lacks learning-focused services. Education systems need to be aware of and responsive to children’s diverse needs and skill levels as they enter formal schooling. Failing to invest sustainably and equitably in quality early learning opportunities for every child endangers the right to fulfil developmental and educational potential.