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Improving Early Learning through Systems Research: A Call for Proposals

September 14, 2016

Photo: Binyam Teshome / World Bank

Investments in children’s early learning pay remarkable dividends later in life.  These range from increased readiness for primary school to improved labor-market outcomes in adulthood.

A growing number of governments in low-income countries are ramping up investments in early learning. However, there is little evidence to guide policymakers on how to deliver early learning activities equitably, cost-effectively, with quality, and at scale.

To address this gap in the evidence, the World Bank’s Early Learning Partnership (ELP), with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), is launching a research program on early learning systems. 

Total funding for the initiative is approximately $6.5 million for 2016-2019.  Two objectives guide the research program:

  1. Responding to country-level policymaker needs. The program will provide actionable information for policymakers in a set of four focus countries: Ethiopia, Liberia, Pakistan (Punjab province), and Tanzania. The research will help guide resource allocations, programming decisions, and policy reforms, with the ultimate goal of promoting quality, equitable early learning at scale. The program will leverage the World Bank’s close working relationships with country governments to ensure that the research is demand-driven and responsive to high-level policymakers’ needs. An additional focus country may be added later depending on the availability of funds.
  2. Building the international evidence base. The program will also contribute to the growing evidence base within the field of systems research, in support of evidence-based decision-making globally. The program will high-quality research to be published in peer-reviewed journals and help build a systems research community of practice.  Researchers from outside the U.S. and Europe are strongly encouraged to apply.


Call for expressions of interest

Most of this research will be funded through an internationally competitive call for proposals. The first call focuses on diagnostics of the early learning systems in Ethiopia, Liberia, Pakistan’s Punjab province, and Tanzania.

Activities may include a policy situation analysis, measurement of children’s early learning outcomes and the quality of early learning settings, cost analysis, actor mapping, an analysis of non-state provision, and other activities proposed by bidders. Due to relevant ongoing work in Tanzania, the call for proposals in Tanzania will cover a more limited set of activities; please see eConsultant2 (below) for more information.

After completion of the system diagnostic, research teams will be invited to apply for funding for Phase 2 of the program, which will support evaluation of specific policy changes related to early learning provision, and/or analysis of options for addressing system-level constraints.

Interested bidders should submit an expression of interest through the World Bank’s eConsultant2 portal by October 27, 2016: https://wbgeconsult2.worldbank.org/wbgec/index.html. Click on “Business Opportunities” and search for the ELP selections by publication date (September 20), deadline (October 27), or selection number:

Liberia – 1226886
Ethiopia – 1226887
Pakistan – 1226888
Tanzania – 1228475

The ELP team will hold two webinars to discuss the call for proposals and answer questions from prospective applicants. To accommodate multiple time zones, two live webinars will be held on Tuesday, October 11 at 9:00 am and 9:00 pm EDT. Registration and login details are forthcoming; please save the date.

Kickoff meetings will be held with the Ministries of Education in focus countries in September and October, and a statement of each government’s priorities for the research program will be incorporated into the final terms of reference.

Contact: elpsystems@worldbank.org