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Highlighted session: Early childhood development programs at scale: examining the evidence for program and system effectiveness

Mon, April 15, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Seacliff B

Group Submission Type: Highlighted Paper Session

Proposal

How countries can improve the early learning of their young children is an essential question in the task of developing higher quality, more sustainable and equitable education systems. The research base in the ECD sector has burgeoned over time, with increasing evidence not only of the benefits of high quality ECD on future outcomes and national growth (Black and Hurley, 2016). It is no longer contested that ECD investments are valuable at the individual and household level as well as at the country or system level; ECD investments are proven to pay off. Rigorous evidence for particular ECD intervention designs to improve children’s early learning and development has also increased, with biological and neuroscientific evidence (Fisher et al., 2007, Meany 2010, among others), theoretical and empirical economic evidence (Cunha and Heckman, 2006, Yilman and Yazihan, 2010, Behrman et al. 2011, among others) and impact evaluation evidence from Bangladesh (Aboud et al., 2008), Indonesia (Hasan et al., 2013), Vietnam (Watanabe et al., 2005) and Mozambique (Martinez & Naudeau, 2012). However, there remains a gap in the literature with respect to whether and how particular ECD interventions can sustainably improve outcomes at medium to large scale in low and middle-income contexts. Resting on the assumption that small scale interventions can be successfully scaled is foolhardy, as experience shows that the effectiveness of scaled interventions is typically much smaller than that of the pilot programs that they built on (Bold et al, 2013). This panel, with evidence from a medium sized pilot pre-service program in Ghana, a large-scale intervention also in Ghana, and large-scale longitudinal studies in Bhutan and Kenya, contribute to our enriched understanding of how ECD interventions at medium to large scale can affect outcomes.

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