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.
|Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health
|240 kindergarten schools and 3,600 children aged 4-6 years
|Teacher training, video sessions for parents
|J. Lawrence Aber, New York University; Sharon Wolf, University of Pennsylvania; Jere R. Behrman, University of Pennsylvania; Loïc Watine, Innovations for Poverty Action
|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.