Review of how IDELA partners use the tool to understand impact and equity while working on collaborative advocacy
Evidence about the importance of learning opportunities in early childhood has been mounting in recent years, culminating with the inclusion of pre-primary education in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Despite the known benefits, global investment in Early Childhood Education (ECE) remains limited. A key constraint to investment is the lack of data on which ECE programs work for children and why. Save the Children’s International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) is a tool aimed at plugging this data gap, with a view to ensuring appropriate ECE programs are in place globally.
What is IDELA?
IDELA is a direct child assessment that spans four developmental areas: motor functioning, language and early literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional development. The assessment can be used with children aged 3-6 years and takes ~30 minutes to administer. The majority of the assessment is done through tasks and games, for example on letter and number identification or measurement and comparison.
How is IDELA being used?
Since IDELA’s public launch in September 2014, it has been used by Save the Children and 22 partners (research institutions, international aid organizations, civil society organizations, and government bodies) in projects across 45 countries—the uptake is growing by 1 country each month. Work in varied contexts proves that IDELA can be adapted to new settings, program needs, and diverse cultural and language contexts.
Impact: Exploring what works for children
Governments, academics, international NGOs, corporations, private schools, and local NGOs use IDELA to learn if and how ECE interventions work for children, with a view to improving and expanding future interventions. For example, using IDELA, a pilot conducted by EQUIP-Tanzania in 2015 found that the introduction of a 12-week school readiness intervention was comparable to results from the more traditional 2-years of pre-school programming. This success led to an expansion in the number of school readiness centers and community teaching assistants, benefiting 150,000 children across seven regions in Tanzania.
Equity: Understanding who is being left out and why
IDELA allows partners to identify groups of children who may lag behind peers or not have program access at all. For example, Lebanon is now sheltering over one million registered Syrian refugees; of the 126 thousand refugee children of pre-school age, 90% have critically unmet ECE needs. To respond to this International Rescue Committee (IRC) began piloting a 4-month program, Preschool Healing Classrooms (PHC). PHC responded to the needs of young children experiencing distress and displacement by providing nurturing, safe, and consistent learning experiences through play, exploration, and social interactions. The pilot PHC program demonstrated impressive gains across all the IDELA developmental domains and in the 2016-2017 academic year IRC expanded its reach to 3,000 refugee children.
Collaboration: Building a common narrative around ECE
With partners using IDELA from across and within sectors and countries, it provides us with a common language, enabling us to easily collaborate. This can influence scale-able change for children that goes above and beyond any one organization’s capacity to implement programs. One of the most powerful examples of organizations coming together across contexts has been with excluded groups of Roma children living in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Together, Open Society Foundations, Results for Development, Roma Education Fund, Save the Children, Step-by-Step Foundation, and the World Bank have been building evidence on ECE programming for Roma children in 14 countries in the region. While each team will have strong evidence for local programming, together their evidence in the region can be used at the highest levels of national and international decision-making.
Advocacy: Working for change in ECE policy
As countries set out to fulfill their commitment to providing quality early childhood care and development opportunities for all children, IDELA can help them identify areas for investment and solutions with promise. It also gives us evidence to articulate the mismatch between current systems and what children actually need to succeed. For example, The Ministry of Education, UNICEF, Save the Children, and other national partners in Bhutan collaborated on an impact evaluation of the national ECE program. This national assessment has led to new government and civil society initiatives to reach the most socially, culturally, and geographically marginalized children.
The future of IDELA
One of IDELA’s greatest strengths and what sets it apart from other available ECE tools is its proven feasibility, adaptability, and rigor in varied contexts. IDELA can be administered consistently in low-resource settings and can quickly identify which strategies will most effectively improve results for children. To shift the reality of children in LMICs we need to leverage measurement that proves what works; IDELA is such a lever.
In 2017 and beyond, we look forward to seeing a continued and increased uptake of IDELA, and an improvement in ECE across the globe as a result. By doing this, significantly more young children will reach their developmental potential and enter school more prepared to succeed.