2010 Yemen: Evaluation of Getting ready for school : A Child-to-Child Approach
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Yemen is one of the six pilot countries that participated in the Getting Ready for School – A Child to Child Approach Initiative. The purpose of this program is to facilitate the successful transition of young children into primary school through the use of older school children (Young Facilitators) as providers of early childhood education support to younger children in their communities. Programme goals include improved school readiness and on-time enrolment among young children, as well as increased family, community and teacher support for young children’s learning.
UNICEF contracted with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to provide UNICEF with an independent assessment of whether and to what extent the Getting Ready for School programme achieved its desired results based on programme implementation during the pilot year. More specifically, the purpose of the evaluation was to assess the extent to which the programme increased children’s successful transitions into primary school, and achieved secondary goals such as increased family support for children’s education. The findings from this evaluation were intended to identify programme strengths, weaknesses, challenges and best practices to guide future implementation and expansion of this programme.
The evaluation was structured in the form of country-level randomised controlled trials. A mixed-methods approach was used whereby quantitative and qualitative data together provided measures of programme impacts as well as essential information regarding conditions that seem to have contributed to or detracted from the success of the programme.
The sampling strategy implemented in Yemen was a randomised controlled trial with random assignment of matched pairs of schools. The evaluation used an intent-to-treat model, meaning that impacts were examined based on availability of Getting Ready for School in a community rather than confining analyses to just those participants who attended or completed the programme.
A variety of evaluation tools were created including a school record form, child assessment, two caregiver interviews, teacher survey, Young Facilitator survey, community stakeholder interviews, session records, cost record form, and primary school enrolment record form.
Findings and Conclusions:
The Getting Ready for School programme in Yemen seems to have had a very successful implementation in this pilot year. There was a high level of enthusiasm for the programme among participants, school administrators and community members.
There were several positive programme impacts. The most significant impact is the 32 percent increase in on-time enrolment among children who had the Getting Ready for School programme available to them. On-time enrolment is a significant concern within Yemen’s educational system, so this impact has positive implications for the educational system as well as for individual children.
The evaluation found small-scale but significant positive programme impacts on children’s beginning literacy and beginning mathematics skills. There was also a small but significant impact on the number of learning support activities that parents engaged in with their children (such as telling stories).
The evaluation found small but significant increases in belief in the importance of school readiness among both Young Facilitators and teachers. In the absence of a Control group, however, we cannot be certain that these increases are a direct result of the programme.
There were two main weaknesses in the programme as it was implemented during this pilot year. First, fewer than half of the parents in the Intervention group reported that they felt they had understood what the Getting Ready for School programme was about after it had first been introduced to them. Second, the best students were selected to become Young Facilitators, and becoming a Young Facilitator was therefore a mark of approval from school staff. Reports from the field suggest that this selection process had an unintended negative consequence whereby children who were not chosen felt bad about themselves as a result.
School heads reported some challenges in implementing the programme. The first was a lack of available space at school to house the programme. The second challenge was finding enough teachers who were willing to implement the programme because this created additional work for them in the absence of any incentives. Third, although schools had been provided with supplies for the programme such as pencils and bags, school heads reported that they did not feel that they had received enough of these materials to meet all of the needs of the programme at their school. A fourth challenge included the long distances some children had to travel to participate in the programme, resulting in reduced attendance in some cases.
In sum, Yemen had an extremely successful pilot implementation of the Getting Ready for School programme, and the programme seems to be on a very positive path toward future success in Yemen.
The recommendations to emerge from this evaluation are as follows:
- Parents need to be better informed about the programme prior to its implementation.
- The selection of Young Facilitators should be made on a more equitable basis. While not all students will be suited to taking on this role, students who are not at the top of their class may gain a special benefit from participation in the programme, increasing their self-confidence and own knowledge through teaching others.
- Ongoing efforts should be made to identify ways that teachers can be encouraged and rewarded for participating in the Getting Ready for School programme. In the absence of monetary incentives, school heads and other education officials may be able to make the programme attractive to teachers through other benefits such as professional development credits.
- Where adequate school space is an issue, other community venues and/or children’s homes should be considered as potential places for children to meet.
- Programme impacts on children’s early learning were significant in several areas. Where children still did not achieve school readiness skills or behaviours at the desired level, programme developers may want to consider ways to better encourage those areas of development through programme activities.
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