Early Childhood Development Free Online Course: Part 3 – How to Implement ECD Interventions?

Note: This post is part of a series of three explaining what is covered under the why (part 1), what (part 2), and how (part 3) modules of the World Bank’s online course.

by Quentin Wodon

Following up on the posts of yesterday and the day before, today’s post is about the “how” of early childhood development (ECD). This is the question asked in the third and last module of the World Bank’s new online course on ECD.

ecd

The first question – the “why” of ECD – focused on individual child-level outcomes: how children grow and develop, the powerful positive impact that ECD interventions can have for them, the high economic returns from such interventions, and the risks incurred without them. Next, with the “what matters” question, we took a step back and looked at ECD systems as a whole at the country level – are country policies and programs structured in such a way that they can deliver ECD interventions for young children. The third question is about “how”. The “how” question looks at what lies in between country systems and ECD interventions at the child level. It deals with how ECD program and policies can be designed, implement, and evaluated.

How to implement ECD interventions is again a fairly broad area of inquiry. The World Bank course focuses on six different topics related to the “how” question. Each is briefly discussed in this post. As before, the hope is that together with the two previous posts, this post will enable readers to decide whether it would be worthwhile for them to actually take the online course, and if they do not, to at least provide them with a few useful resources on ECD.

The first topic on the “how” of ECD focuses on what the World Bank has done in this field in terms of support to governments. This is after all a World Bank course! Key findings from a 12-year review of the World Bank’s experience with ECD projects are provided. The good news is that lending and grants as well as analytical work for ECD has increased dramatically in the last few years after a number of policy document recognized the importance of investments in ECD. Examples of projects implemented in countries such as Mexico, Eritrea, and Indonesia are also provided.

The second topic considers the issue of inter-sectoral coordination between agencies and Ministries, as well as between the wide range of providers of ECD services. It discusses what a comprehensive EDC system could look like and how coordination helps in achieving synergies between interventions as well as cost savings though the combination of interventions in service delivery. Again, examples of coordination mechanisms from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean are provided.

The third topic is devoted to ECD diagnostics, whether for countries or projects. The topic discusses the inputs that are needed for ECD interventions, and how such interventions can be funded. It reviews some of the broad indicators (including those related to the Millennium Development Goals) that have been used to monitor ECD outcomes at the country level, as well as some of the more detailed child assessment tools that can be used for more detailed evaluations, including by servicer providers such as NGOs.

These assessment tools are then described in more details in the fourth topic in order to help practitioners chose the right type of child assessment to measure whether they are indeed achieving the outcomes that they are trying to achieve. The issue of how to adapt such assessment tools to local conditions – an assessment tool for the United States may not work in Bolivia – is also discussed. The topic finally presents briefly the area of focus of on-going impact evaluations being implemented by the World Bank, in part using these tools, in ten countries in Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and South Asia.

The fifth topic looks in more details at the cost of ECD interventions and their financing. The topic shows how to estimate the overall cost of specific interventions, as well as the cost per beneficiary. While some costs may be borne by families, many of the costs should be paid for by governments and/or other funders, especially when programs targeted low-income beneficiaries. Guidelines as to how much countries should invest in ECD programs are provided and examples of combinations of funding sources, allocation mechanisms, and coverage rates for different types of ECD interventions from Columbia, Denmark, and Indonesia are documented.

The sixth and last topic considers issues related to project design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. The discussion is based in part on a case study for a large project implemented by the World Bank in Indonesia. After providing a snapshot of the project, the concepts of results chain and results framework are introduced to link inputs with outputs and intermediate as well as final outcomes. While the case study is based on a large project, the concepts presented also apply to smaller initiatives led by NGOs and other service providers.

That’s it for the structure of the course! As mentioned in the first post of this series, the course takes about four to five hours to complete. The course was initially designed for World Bank task team leaders in education, health, and social protection who are involved in the design and implementation of ECD projects or in policy dialogue on ECD with governments and other organizations. While these staffs have broad-based program and project-related responsibilities, they may not be familiar with some more detailed aspects of ECD interventions and policies. The e-learning course provides them with a resource to broaden their knowledge base.

But it is also hoped that the course, which is available free of charge, should be of interest to policy makers in countries as well as staffs from donor and other agencies, including non-governmental organizations. The course may also be of interest to undergraduate and graduate university students. The hope is that many of you, the readers, will take the course to learn more about this fascinating and very important topic.

Note: This series of three posts is based on the e-learning course mentioned above, which was developed by a World Bank team comprising of Amina Denboba, Monica McLin, Michelle Neuman, Rebecca Kraft Sayre, Yidan Wang, and the author.

 

Early Childhood Development Free Online Course: Part 2 – What Matters for ECD?

Note: This post is part of a series of three explaining what is covered under the why (part 1), what (part 2), and how (part 3) modules of the World Bank’s online course.

by Quentin Wodon

Scientific and economic arguments make a clear case for investing in early childhood development (ECD). This was the topic of yesterday’s post. But what should ECD providers and countries focus on when investing in ECD? What do they need to pay attention to? How can they assess whether their ECD programs and systems are sound? Some issues will be program-specific. For example, what is the scope of the available ECD programs? What is their coverage? How equitable is access to programs? Other issues will be system-wide. How good is the enabling environment for ECD programs and policies? Are various agencies and Ministries coordinating their interventions? Are quality assurance mechanisms in place for providers?

These are complex questions. To answer them a framework is needed. The second module of the World Bank’s free online ECD course does just that: it provides a framework for assessing the quality of ECD programs and policies in a country. The module is designed with policy makers in mind, but it should also be useful for practitioners, including those implementing ECD programs on the ground, simply because understanding how the overall ECD system works (or does not work) matters when thinking about a particular intervention. This second blog post in the 3-part series on ECD explains the thinking behind this second module.

SABER ECD

The course’s second module is based on the ECD component of the SABER (Systems Approach for Better Education Results) framework. SABER ECD identifies three policy goals that matter most for effective ECD country systems: (1) Establishing an Enabling Environment; (2) Implementing Widely; and (3) Monitoring and Assuring Quality. Taken together the three goals help in addressing constraints to effective ECD policies such as fragmented policy between ministries, limited and uneven access to services, and poor quality assurance mechanisms. For each policy goal, three policy levers are identified to strengthen ECD systems. The Figure below presents the structure of the SABER-ECD framework with the three goals and nine levers.

SABER ECD Framework
SABER ECD Framework

Establishing an Enabling Environment. This is the foundation for effective ECD policies. A country’s enabling environment can encourage diverse participation and service uptake, promote efficient service delivery, and ensure adequate financing and institutional capacity. In the context of ECD, establishing an enabling environment entails developing an adequate legal and regulatory framework to support ECD provision. Coordination within sectors and across institutions is necessary to ensure effective service delivery. Finally, the availability of adequate fiscal resources and systems to allocate financing will determine the extent to which the enabling environment supports the ECD system.

Implementing Widely. This goal refers to the scope of existing programs offered and their coverage level, as well as the extent to which access to these programs is equitable and children’s holistic development is addressed. A robust ECD system should include policies that support programs in all essential sectors and target all beneficiary groups (e.g., pregnant women, infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and caregivers). Finally, particular attention must be paid to children from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds as well as those with special needs, so that all children have equitable access to the programs being offered.

Monitoring and Assuring Quality. This goal refers to the availability of data and systems to monitor ECD outcomes, the development of quality standards for ECD service delivery, and the establishment of systems to monitor compliance with these standards. Under political and budget pressures, policymakers may expand access to ECD services at the expense of quality. This could jeopardize the very benefits that policymakers hope children will gain through preschool and other ECD interventions. Sound evidence is required to inform policy decisions. Impact evaluations suggest that the benefits from ECD interventions are large, but if programs are of poor quality, the benefits may be negligible and the programs may even be detrimental. Furthermore, in many countries, a large proportion of ECD services are provided by the private sector; for these systems, well-defined and enforced monitoring and quality assurance systems are critical to ensure that standards for service delivery are met.

To summarize, what the second module of the online course does is to 1) Describe the three policy goals and how they affect ECD outcomes; 2) Explain the nine policy levers in more details and how they contribute to the three policy goals; and 3) Examine how ECD systems affect children’s growth and development through two stylized country case studies – a well performing country, and a poorly performing one.

Implementation of SABER ECD

Before concluding, it is useful to mention that apart from the two stylized country case studies used to illustrate the above framework, the course also provides examples from actual countries on programs and policies that have worked especially well (good practice cases). These examples stem from lessons learned from the application of the SABER ECD diagnostic tool to about 50 countries worldwide. The map below provides a visualization of the countries where the tool has been (or is being) applied to date. In the third and final post of this series, the focus will shift to the third question considered in the online course, namely how to implement ECD programs and policies.

 

SABER ECD Implementation Map
SABER ECD Implementation Map

Note: This series of three posts is based on the e-learning course mentioned above, which was developed by a World Bank team comprising of Amina Denboba, Monica McLin, Michelle Neuman, Rebecca Kraft Sayre, Yidan Wang, and the author.