The Early Learning Partnership (ELP) supports activities in 26 countries in Africa and South Asia, including: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda. To download a full summary of all current ELP country activities, click here.
In Afghanistan today, early childhood development (ECD) services reach only a tiny portion of the population. The country has made great strides as it emerges from conflict and violence, with general school enrollment growing more than eight-fold since 2002. However, just 1 percent of children ages 3 to 5 attend preschool, and ECD services are overseen by two separate ministries (Social Affairs and Education) and various NGOs without coordination or quality control.
ELP Investment: ELP funding is being used to assess, improve, and expand ECD services throughout the country in partnership with the government and other key development partners. A thorough diagnosis of the current ECD environment will be conducted and then applied to design a comprehensive ECD strategy. ELP funds will also support the design and pilot of a method to assess quality of service provision in existing ECD centers. The lessons learned from this work will inform the World Bank’s new basic education project being designed with the government in 2016 and 2017.
Funds leveraged: $267 million (ECD integrated into existing project)
In Bangladesh, poor access to early learning opportunities is closely linked with severe problems of maternal and child malnourishment. A quarter of all pregnant women are undernourished, and more than a fifth of all children are born at low birthweight. The burden of undernutrition continues through early childhood, harming children’s cognitive development with lifelong consequences. Many families’ access to knowledge about good nutrition and food practices remains limited, so improving this, as well as their access to early learning opportunities, will be critical in stemming the intergenerational transmission of poverty.
ELP Investment: With assistance from the World Bank, the government is implementing its Income Support Program for the Poorest (ISPP) project, designed to reach mothers and children in the poorest rural areas, where rates of malnutrition are especially high. ELP funds are supporting the integration of early childhood development (ECD) into this project, in effect merging the benefits of ECD knowledge with the benefits of a broader program of social support.
For example, ECD activities will be incorporated into the conditional cash transfer program to increase mothers’ use of Child Nutrition and Cognitive Development (CNCD) services. Pregnant women and mothers will receive their cash transfers based on their attendance at monthly CNCD sessions. There they will learn ways to promote healthy growth through good nutritional practices, how to build bonds with their newborns, how to encourage the development in their young children of strong motor, cognitive, social, and language skills, and ways to use positive discipline.
Funds leveraged: $6.5 million (New ECD activities developed)
In Burkina Faso, fewer than 4 percent of young children are enrolled in pre-primary education and fewer than 25 percent of preschool teachers are trained. Malnutrition and stunting rates are high, affecting one-third of children below age five. Malnutrition in Burkina Faso stems not only from poor access to good food but also from inappropriate feeding, difficulties in accessing health care, socio-cultural practices, and lack of hygiene and sanitation, all linked with poverty. To help address early childhood development (ECD) needs in tandem with broader health and nutrition needs, the ELP has approved two investments in Burkina Faso.
Project 1 through the Education sector: The government has committed to expanding both the quantity and the quality of ECD programs. To help it achieve that goal, the ELP team is supporting an innovative technology—interactive audio instruction (IAI)—that can deliver high-quality content to large numbers of beneficiaries in very remote areas at the cost of just a few dollars per child per year. Working within the World Bank-financed Education Access and Quality Improvement Project (EAQIP), the government and the ELP team designed the $2 million ECD/IAI component for children ages three and four so that it is aligned with the national curriculum standards. The government will also use the IAI program to provide untrained teachers with continuous guidance and reinforcement, linked with a project-designed system of teacher certification, opening a cost-effective, practical option for teacher training in these rural areas.
Over the lifetime of EAQIP, 15,000 children will be newly enrolled in preschool and 600 teachers will receive training. The ELP team has also developed a toolkit to provide guidance for other countries interested in IAI for preschools; this resource is already being used in several countries. The Burkina Faso project will be carried out in conjunction with the ELP-supported Social Safety Net Project, described next.
Project 2 through the Social Protection sector: Through its existing Social Safety Net Project, the government provides income support to poor households. ELP funding is being used to incorporate ECD and nutrition interventions within this cash-transfer program, known as Burkin-Naong-Sa Ya. The integrated approach, which targets 40,000 poor households with children below the age of 15, will be put into effect by the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity, with technical and financial support from the World Bank. The new ECD/nutrition component will employ communitywide social and behavior change communications, small-group training for women with children below the age of three, and home visits to specific households. Its larger aims are to reduce malnutrition, prepare children for a brighter future, and break the intergenerational transfer of poverty.
- Interactive Audio Instruction full toolkit
- Education Access and Quality Improvement Project (EAQIP)
- Social Safety Net Project in Burkina Faso
- Burkina Faso – World Bank Country Page
Funds leveraged: $1 million (New ECD activities developed)
In DRC, where less than 5 percent of children have access to pre-primary education, the government’s recently revised national education law, Cadre de l’enseignement National, now guarantees preschool for all children ages three through five.
ELP investment: In 2014, the ELP team helped conduct a systems analysis of the country’s early childhood development (ECD) programs and policies. The resulting World Bank report, which used the Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) framework, assessed not only early learning needs and policies but health, nutrition, and social and child protection policies in the DRC, alongside regional and international comparisons. The report highlights the need for increased support for ECD in the country. In July 2015, World Bank staff reviewed the report findings and recommendations with government officials and other ECD stakeholders and discussed ways to scale access to ECD across the country. The ELP team then worked with World Bank colleagues and the government to design a new Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Project with $1 million in funding for ECD activities.
In addition, ELP investment supported pilots in two regions of DRC that deployed interactive audio instruction (IAI) as a cost-effective way to deliver curriculum to remote locations via MP3 or radio and guiding classroom teachers through pre-recorded activities. Five IAI “episodes” were built from the national curriculum, recorded by local artists, and tested at the school level. A toolkit for replicating this pilot was also developed and is publicly available and being used in several other countries.
- Interactive Audio Instruction full toolkit
- IAI in DRC Video
- SABER-ECD Country Report: DRC
- Democratic Republic of Congo- World Bank Country Page
Pre-primary enrolment has expanded massively in Ethiopia, growing from less than 10 percent in 2008 to 26 percent by 2015. The country has achieved this mainly by launching “0 classes” in regular primary schools, attaining an enrollment of 1 million in the first year of implementation alone. Still, much work remains to be done to improve quality and increase access for poor and disadvantaged groups. A wide variety of early childhood development (ECD) models are being practiced in the country by the government, the private sector, local communities, religious organizations, and NGOs. A more rigorous monitoring and quality assurance system is needed.
ELP investment: The ELP team is supporting the government to identify “0 class” interventions that work to improve quality and are cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable. Once the right interventions are identified, the team will work with the government to design a plan to scale at the national level, with a focus on reaching disadvantaged children.
- World Bank Education Sector Financing Review ‘Investing in Ethiopia’s Future’
- Ethiopia- World Bank Country Page
Funds leveraged: $4.47 million (New ECD activities developed)
In The Gambia, approximately one-third of children have access to pre-primary education. To promote the transition from pre-primary to primary school and reduce the constraints of distance and fees, the Ministry of Education is attaching early childhood development (ECD) centers to existing primary schools.
ELP investment: In 2014, the ELP team supported an analysis of the ECD programs and policies that affect young children in The Gambia, using the Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER- ECD) tool. The ELP team also helped evaluate two public ECD programs for children ages three to six— classrooms attached to primary schools and community center–based programs—to help the government identify which was most effective and should be scaled. The study found that children in primary school-based classes (known as “annexes”) performed better than those who attended pre-primary at community centers, and also found that a newly adopted curriculum improved performance at the annexes while showing no effects at the community centers. The ELP is now supporting the government in its construction of 27 ECD classrooms, in conducting monitoring and supervision of ECD services in those new classrooms, and in purchasing teaching and learning materials.
- Early learning assessments- key findings and impact evaluation reports
- SABER-ECD Country Report: The Gambia
- The Gambia – World Bank Country Page
Funds leveraged: $71,215,000 (Activities developed to ensure quality during scale-up)
Ghana has one of the highest early childhood education (ECE) enrollment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Government of Ghana offers 2 years of universal free pre-primary education and is committed to ensuring quality early learning to its youngest citizens. To promote ECE-system quality and school readiness nationally, the Ghana Education Service (GES) has set priorities to (i) increase the number of children accessing quality early learning, focusing on disadvantaged districts and (ii) improve quality of ECE services through improved in-service teacher training and greater parental engagement. The GES aims to assess ECE service quality through innovative measures and advanced methods of school readiness and classroom quality assessments with locally-adapted direct observation tools.
ELP investment: The ELP grant will support additional data collection for an ongoing impact evaluation that is evaluating two efforts to improve the quality of kindergarten education in Ghana: (a) an in-service teacher training (supply-side), and (b) a parental awareness training program (demand-side) on school readiness (i.e. early literacy and numeracy skills, socioemotional skills, and executive function). The evaluation will assess the potential sustained impacts of these interventions on (i) teaching quality and teacher well-being, (ii) parental engagement in schools, parent-child interactions at home, and school choice, and (iii) the utility of cutting-edge measurement tools of both classroom quality and early childhood development/school readiness in low- and middle-income country contexts.
The initial ELP investment has leveraged increased funding amounting $71.2 million from key partners such as USAID, the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, and UBS Optimus Foundation to ensure the effective delivery of scaled project interventions.