This report summarizes the results of a follow-up study evaluating the results of the ELM parenting program in Meherpur, Bangladesh.
This report summarizes the results of a follow-up study evaluating the results of the ELM parenting program in Meherpur, Bangladesh. This parenting program is an extension of previous parenting work carried out within Save the Children’s Sponsorship-funded Shishuder Jonno program in Meherpur. Unlike many other parenting programs which tend to emphasize predominantly on health and nutrition and not early stimulation, the ELM sessions focus on how parents can promote early literacy and math skills with their children.
The baseline study sample included 600 children and caregivers from 60 pre-primary centers in Meherpur Sadar, Mujbnagar and Gangni. The follow-up study found very low and equally distributed attrition across groups (9 percent on average) and the endline sample includes 166 children in the comparison group (no parenting sessions), 175 in the traditional parenting group and 169 in the ELM parenting group. Regression analyses investigating variables related to attrition found that girls are less likely to be missing at endline than boys, with the largest differential found in the traditional parenting group. Families with more children and those with walls made of more expensive material were less likely to be missing at endline.
In terms of gains seen from programming, analyses find gains for caregivers in the ELM parenting group in some areas but few overall. Specifically, parents in the ELM parenting group reported gaining more storybooks, homemade toys and shape/color toys compared to the traditional parenting group, but overall no differences were found between gains in learning materials made by the intervention groups and the comparison group. Similarly with parent-child interactions, analyses find that interactions with children are increasing for all groups but very few significant differences exist related to the amount of change taking place between different groups of parents. On average, we see considerably high levels of positive parenting practices at baseline which limits the gains that can be seen thanks to parenting interventions. Also, across all groups, mothers report spending substantially more time with children than fathers or other family members. Finally, there were no differences in average gains or endline reports of caregivers’ attitudes toward parenting between different groups. Again, we note that baseline scores were quite high in this sample and it is possible the scale was not able to detect sufficiently well differences between the groups at endline.
Overall, there were no significant differences between the skills gains of children in different intervention groups or between gains made by boys and girls in any area. Controlling for relevant background characteristics and baseline scores, multivariate regression analyses clustering for children within ECCD centers find that the amount of learning activities happening at home is significantly related to gains in emergent literacy, socio-emotional development and overall school readiness. Also, parents’ attitudes toward their role in their children’s development are positively related to learning gains in all areas except motor development.
A review of caregiver feedback on parent sessions finds that ELM caregivers reported significantly more learning than comparison caregivers. In addition, caregivers in the ELM group report more sharing of things they learned with spouses and other family members compared to caregivers in traditional and comparison groups. In addition to the quantitative information gathered for this study, focus group discussions were also conducted with parents in the ELM and traditional parenting groups. Qualitative results mirror the quantitative finding that parents enjoy the sessions they attend, but one main difference between responses given by parents in the two groups was that ELM parents were able to provide more examples of the specific activities they were doing at home with their children whereas the traditional parenting group gave more general answers about activities with children. Looking at the relationship between participation and engagement will parenting sessions and changes in parent behaviors, the strongest connect represented in the data is that parents who report learning more from parenting sessions tend to increase their play behaviors at home with children. This may be due to the fact that learning through playing is a strong emphasis of Save the Children parenting programs and one that sets these programs apart from traditional parenting programs.
Finally, in addition to the school readiness assessment and caregiver questionnaires, some of the ECCD centers in this sample participated in a Quality Learning Environment (QLE) data collection (2 centers in the comparison community, 6 centers in traditional parenting community and 9 centers in ELM parenting). Average scores across the 4 Guiding Principles and overall QLE score are similar across groups and significance testing was not undertaken due to the small sample size. However, one trend to note is that the sites implementing the parenting interventions reported higher scores on Principle #4 which focuses on community/parent involvement in ECD centers, compared to the comparison sites where no focused intervention and engagement with parents happened. Another point to note is that the data demonstrate the ECD program to be of relatively high quality with most ECD centers are scoring close to 3 out of 4 possible points. This is important in light of the findings above that parenting interventions didn’t seem to make a substantive difference in the gains of children over time. These children attend what is considered strong ECD program and already gaining a lot by their participation in this intervention. Parenting education is an added bonus for these families that not surprisingly doesn’t seem to make as big of a difference as it would if children were not enrolled in an ECD program or if the program was of low quality.