Evidence to Policy, a monthly note series on learning what works, highlights studies that evaluate the impact of programs in the critical areas of human development --health, education, social protection, water and sanitation and labor. From how to best supply rural health clinics with drugs to what helps students do better in school, World Bank-supported impact evaluations provide governments and development experts with the information they need to use resources most effectively. As impact evaluations increasingly become more important to policymakers, this series offers a non-technical review of the many innovations the World Bank is supporting, and the growing number of rigorous studies analyzing the impacts of those innovations. The note series is managed by SIEF, which receives generous funding from the British government's Department for International Development and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).
The importance of children’s earliest years, when their brains and bodies are developing, is well-established. Providing children with adequate nutrition and cognitive and psycho-social stimulation during this period can reap benefits not only in their early school years but for many years to come. Extreme poverty and the malnutrition and low levels of stimulation that often come with it, however, prevents approximately 250 million children under five years of age in lower-income countries from reaching their full potential as adults. As evidence grows on this topic, policymakers are showing increasing interest in early childhood development programs to promote healthy early child development. Previous research in high-income countries suggests these programs, when implemented well, can help children go further in their education, earn more, and commit less crime as adults than their disadvantaged peers, but little is known about long-term benefits in lowand middle-income countries.
Children need a safe, nurturing, healthy, and stimulating environment to thrive and reach their full potential. But millions of children living in poverty don’t receive enough stimulation or good nutrition in their first years of life, and poverty also makes them more likely to experience neglect and violence in the home. Domestic violence, however, is rarely addressed in programs promoting young children’s development, which also typically focus on mothers, with little attention on fathers. Previous research suggests home-based parenting programs can lead to positive improvements in children’s brain development. Can these programs be adapted to address family violence as well? Can these services be effectively delivered through government social safety net programs which often target poor, vulnerable families?
In the first years of life, all children need healthy food, a clean environment, and stimulation to thrive and reach their full developmental potential. However, poverty prevents millions of young children in low- and middle-income countries from receiving adequate nutrition and stimulation. As a result, many disadvantaged children’s brain development lags behind that of their well-off peers, which can have lifelong consequences. Previous research from low-income settings has found that encouraging parents to play and interact more with their children can improve children’s brain development, with impacts that can last into adulthood. Delivering these parenting programs at scale and in a cost-effective manner, however, has been a challenge, in part because some of the most successful programs have been delivered through intensive and relatively costly home-based programs.
Young children everywhere need sufficient nutrition and stimulation to grow and develop appropriately. A healthy, diverse diet and a supportive caregiving environment can help children grow and develop in their early years, and also make children more likely to succeed later in life. Across low-income countries, however, hundreds of millions of children don’t get enough healthy food for their bodies and brains to develop fully, putting them at a disadvantage starting from an early age. With so many children at risk of stunted growth and development, policymakers are urgently seeking effective and scalable approaches to improve children’s outcomes.
Early childhood is a critical period for growth and development. Research shows that giving young children enough nurturing and stimulating experiences during these early years not only improves their chances of success in school but can also help them succeed and be more productive later in life. Although access to preschool has increased substantially in recent years, in many low-income communities children don’t receive any educational services before they start primary school.
Children everywhere need enough nutritious food and stimulation to grow and develop to their full potential. Yet many disadvantaged children in low-income countries do not receive the support they need in the first years of life, negatively affecting their future health, education, and earnings. This research in Colombia shows that it is possible to deliver a model of early childhood education at scale and through existing government services.
To ensure that children arrive in primary school ready to learn, policymakers around the world are increasingly focusing on what happens in preprimary education programs. In Ghana, SIEF-supported researchers used a randomized control trial to measure the impact of the teacher training on its own and of twinning it with an educational component for parents to inform them about what’s developmentally appropriate in preprimary education.
In Malawi, researchers supported by the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) worked with the government to study the impact of a pilot program to improve the quality of the country’s Community-Based Childcare Centers, which serve children aged three to five years old in rural areas.
The Government of Bangladesh is working with a variety of partners on initiatives to improve early childhood development and provide the country’s youngest citizens with a good start. The World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) supported an evaluation to test the impact of adding a child stimulation component to a national nutrition program.
Researchers worked with the Government of Cambodia to evaluate the impact of three pilot early childhood development programs that were being scaled up with assistance from the World Bank.
This policy note reviews the evaluation of a program in Jamaica that targeted mothers of babies stunted due to malnutrition, offering a rare look at the effects of early childhood intervention over the decades.
Also available in Spanish, French
To test the effectiveness of preschool programs on children’s enrollment in and readiness for primary school, the World Bank supported a study of an early childhood development preschool program in Mozambique run by Save the Children. The evaluation showed that children enrolled in preschool were better prepared for the demands of schooling than children who did not attend preschool and that they were more likely to start primary school by age 6.
Also available in French, Spanish
In Nepal, researchers supported by the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund worked with the government to develop a program to inform pregnant women and mothers of young children on how to best care for themselves and their children, using already ongoing community meetings to deliver messages.
An evaluation of an effort to improve child development through a social safety nets program found that behavioral change activities improved women’s knowledge and practices. But there was little impact on children’s physical growth or cognitive development.
Also available in French
This policy brief provides an overview of the ECED sector and uses findings from an ongoing World Bank-supported ECED project to make preliminary policy recommendations to guide these initiatives. This brief shows that the ECED project has had several positive effects, including increased enrollment rates and higher developmental outcomes for children. The project objectives are to increase access to ECED services among the poor and enhance children's school readiness. This is done through a package of interventions which are delivered sequentially and include: community facilitation, block grants, and teacher training.
Also available in Bahasa (Indonesian)
In an effort to understand whether the program is improving children's development and readiness for primary school, and what factors contribute to effectiveness of ECED services, MoNE is undertaking an impact evaluation that tracks over 6,400 children (ages 1 and 4) for a period of three years. The baseline results summarized here are the first to show relationships between parental education, nutrition, and stimulating learning environments and child developmental outcomes in Indonesia.
Also available in Bahasa (Indonesian)