BRIEF

Testing and Scaling-Up Supply- and Demand-side Interventions to Improve Kindergarten Educational Quality in Ghana

October 3, 2016


High-quality early childhood education is critical for building the skills children need to learn and has been linked to long-term adult economic well-being. Investing in effective, low-cost teacher training models to improve the quality of early childhood education, and finding ways to encourage parents’ engagement with schools and teachers, is critical in countries with limited resources and untrained teachers. This evaluation of a program in Ghana that provided teacher training and information to parents on developmentally appropriate learning environments is helping the Government of Ghana decided on next steps for boosting preschool quality.

 

Research area: Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health
Country: Ghana
Evaluation Sample: 240 kindergarten schools and 3,600 children aged 4-6 years
Timeline: 2015-2018 (completed)
Intervention: Teacher training, video sessions for parents
Researchers: J. Lawrence Aber,  New York University; Sharon Wolf, University of Pennsylvania; Jere R. Behrman, University of Pennsylvania; Loïc Watine, Innovations for Poverty Action
Partners: UBS Optimus Foundation; New York University

 

Problem: Though kindergarten is free in Ghana and enrollment has passed 80 percent, quality is inconsistent and most kindergarten teachers are untrained. Parents also tend to assess kindergarten quality based on physical infrastructure rather than whether classroom practices are developmentally-appropriate, and they rarely engage with school staff about their children’s education.

Intervention: The program aims to improve kindergarten quality and parental awareness of what quality means through a teacher training program and a program to explain to parents what kind of learning environment is developmentally appropriate for children prior to primary school.   The training consisted of a five-day program for kindergarten teachers in the schools, followed by a two-day refresher course later in the year and another one-day refresher training following that.  The training focused on early childhood development, child-centered and play-based learning methods, and behavior management techniques.  For the parental awareness campaign, videos about what constitutes a quality learning environment and the importance of engaging with school staff were shown at three different Parent Teacher Association meetings, followed by discussions around those topics. Parents were also given pamphlets that reiterated the information in the videos.

Evaluation design: This evaluation was designed as a clustered randomized control trial. A total of 240 schools were randomly assigned into one of two treatment groups or the control group: 80 schools received in-service teacher training, 80 received training and the parental awareness intervention, and the remaining 80 schools in the control group received neither program. In each of the groups, about half of the schools were public and half were private. The schools were selected from six of the most disadvantaged districts in the greater Accra region.

Eligibility: Both public and private kindergartens

Results: At the end of the school year, the teacher training program increased the number of developmentally appropriate activities teachers were doing in the classroom, and this change continued in the second year as well. It also improved children’s school readiness, including their early literacy, early numeracy, and social-emotional skills in the first year. One year later, when children moved to their next year of schooling, the impacts on social-emotional development continued, with only marginal impacts on executive function. The parental awareness meetings were not effective in engaging parents in their child’s education, and researchers suggest exploring alternative approaches to engage parents. Overall, the results of the in-service teacher training hold promise for improving the education quality in Ghana’s kindergarten system.

Next steps: The research team is preparing an additional round of data collection and have secured additional sources of funding from the British Academy, the United Kingdom’s national body for the humanities and social sciences, to determine the long-term effects of the intervention after the children have transitioned to primary school. Also, because the program was proven to be effective in urban areas of Ghana, the research team is hoping to test it effectiveness in more rural settings.


Image
Photo: Trevor Samson / World Bank

Policy impact

The team is working with Ghana’s education colleges on pre-service training to create an evidence-based curriculum that better reflects kindergarten curriculum best practices. Additionally, the National Nursery Teacher Training Center, the main teacher training center in Accra, now offers an 8-day training for kindergarten teachers that uses the intervention curriculum. The shorter, compressed program makes training more accessible to teachers, and is offered alongside their existing eight-week certification program. Private school organizations, including the Early Childhood Development Care Association of Ghana (ECDCAG) network, have also expressed their willingness to use the program’s training curriculum.

Detailed Program Description/Intervention

The program lasted one school year and comprised two interventions. The first was a low-cost, five-day training for kindergarten teachers in the schools, followed by a two-day refresher course and later another one-day refresher training (eight days total).  The training was conducted by the National Nursery Teacher Training Center (NNTTC), which is based in Accra and partially funded by the Ministry of Education. The program was designed in response to the governments’ 2012 Plan to Scale Up Quality KG Education in Ghana and provided in-service teacher training focused on early childhood development, child-centered and play-based learning methods, and behavior management techniques.  

The in-service training was complemented by a three-day training for four early childhood education (ECE) coordinators in each of the six program districts to strengthen their ability to monitor, evaluate and support teachers. These trained coordinators visited teachers four to eight times during the school year.

The second intervention aimed to increase parents’ awareness of the importance of quality early childhood education. Videos were shown at three different Parent Teacher Association meetings, followed by discussions led by the trained district early childhood education coordinators and head teachers. The contents of the videos were designed to help parents understand what constitutes a good learning environment and the importance of early childhood education. It also explained that parents can influence the quality of education by engaging with school staff. Parents were given pamphlets that reiterated the information in the videos.

Impact Evaluation

Public and private kindergarten schools with classrooms in the six pilot districts in the greater Accra region were eligible to participate in the program. The main research questions considered by the evaluation were:

  • Does the low-cost, eight-day in-service training for kindergarten teachers improve their classroom practices, teacher-child interactions, child development outcomes, school readiness and learning?
  • Does the low-cost parental awareness video intervention change parental perceptions, expectations of a quality kindergarten education?
  • Does the impact of the teacher training and the parental awareness intervention differ for public and private schools?
  • Does the impact of the teacher training and the parental awareness intervention differ depending on children’s gender, language spoken at home, and children’s home environments?

The evaluation used a clustered randomized control trial approach that stratified eligible kindergarten schools by district and public and private status, and randomly assigned them to one of the two treatment groups or the control group. Treatment group 1 consisted of 80 schools, half public and half private where teachers  received the low-cost in-service training. Treatment group 2 consisted of 80 schools, half public and half private, where teachers received the same training as those in treatment group 1. In addition, the parents of children randomly selected for the sample participated in the video intervention to increase awareness of the importance of quality early childhood education. For both treatment groups, the district coordinators trained by the program provided continuous support to teachers. In the 80 public and private schools in the control group, teachers did not receive any in-service training and there wasn't any parental awareness intervention; this group represented the “business-as-usual” case. At each school, 15 students and two teachers were randomly selected for the surveys for a total sample of about 3,600 children and 480 teachers in 240 schools.

The evaluation used questionnaires and direct assessments at the program baseline in 2015, midline in 2016 and endline in 2017 and measured children’s pre-literacy, pre-numeracy, motor, and socio-emotional development, as well as classroom teaching quality. Questionnaries also evaluated teacher motivation and parents’ perceptions of education, as well as program implementation.

Additional Resources

Events:

  • Evidence in Education Summit organized by IPA in partnership with the Ministry of Education, March 2017.
  • Early Childhood Education (ECE) Impact Evaluation Results Dissemination event oorganized by IPA, October 2017