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Assessing Whether Young Children are On-track in the Areas of Learning, Health and Psycho-social Well-being

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Target 4.2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals states that countries need to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education. Progress toward Target 4.2 is to be measured by determining how many children are developmentally on-track in the areas of health, learning and psychosocial well-being (Indicator 4.2.1). UNICEF is currently modifying the Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI), a component of its Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, to develop a parent report measure of Indicator 4.2.1. Obtaining direct assessments of children's developmental status is resource intensive but they are considered gold standard assessments of child development. Against this background, the objective of this study was to develop a valid measure of Indicator 4.2.1 that relies on direct child assessment and compare findings to parent reports.

A direct assessment tool, Developmentally on Track for 4.2.1 (DOT), was field tested in several Asian countries. This study reports on preliminary findings from China. The sample included 240 children (120 girls; Mage= 55.9 months, SD=9.3) from four kindergartens in Beijing and three kindergartens in a rural area outside Beijing. Children were tested in individual sessions. The tool includes 15 items in the learning domain (α = .91) (early numeracy and mathematics; language, literacy and communication; executive function); 9 items in the psychosocial competence and well-being domain (α = .57) (emotional competence and well-being; social cognition; social competence); and four items in the health domain (α = .75). Children’s height and weight were also measured.

Older children had higher scores on the DOT than younger children but gradients were smoother in the learning and health domains than in the psychosocial domain (Figure 1). Older children were taller and heavier than younger children (Figure 2). Urban-rural differences were found across ages in the learning and health domains but not in the psychosocial domain or for the anthropometric measures

OLS regressions indicated that older children had significantly higher scores than younger children in the learning (β = .061 SD per month of age; p < 0.001), psychosocial and well-being (β = .035 SD; p < 0.001), and health (β = .066; p < 0.001) domains. Older children were significantly taller (β = .62 cm per month of age; p < 0.001) and heavier (β = .20 kg; p < 0.001) than younger children. After controlling for age, urban compared to rural residence predicted significantly higher learning (β = .49 SD; p < 0.001) and health (β = .34 SD; p = 0.01) scores but not psychosocial scores. After controlling for age, urbanicity did not significantly predict anthropometric measures.

Findings from the DOT were compared to the ECDI parent report measure. Significant correlations were only found for the learning (r = .49; p < 0.001) and health (r = .24; p < 0.001) domains suggesting that they are psychometrically robust and can help assess children’s progress towards SDG Indicator 4.2.1. Implications of the findings are discussed.

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