2014 Ethiopia: An Evaluation of the Child-to-Child School Readiness Programme in Ethiopia
Author: University of Toronto
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The Child-to-Child Approach for School Readiness Programme in Ethiopia (hereafter the Child-to-Child School Readiness Programme or CtCSRP) was piloted by the Government of Ethiopia with support from UNICEF in 2008/09. The purpose of the Child-to-Child Approach for School Readiness Programme (CtCSRP) is to improve children’s school readiness through a child-centred, peer tutoring approach that engages older children (Young Facilitators) to conduct early learning activities with pre-school aged children in their home villages. By the end of the programme, children are expected to achieve basic pre-literacy and numeracy competencies that can support their successful transition into Grade 1.
UNICEF contracted the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto to conduct an independent evaluation to determine whether children who participated in the CtCSRP have better school readiness and early learning skills compared to children who have not participated in the programme. In addition, the evaluation investigated the programme benefits for Young Facilitators, families and teachers, and explored the process of programme implementation and issues related programme sustainability. The findings from this evaluation were intended to identify programme strengths and weaknesses that could be used to inform future decisions about improving quality or scaling up the programme.
The purpose of the impact evaluation was to estimate the effectiveness of the CtCSRP in UNICEF-supported woredas, and to provide evidence that can be used to inform future decisions about improving programme quality or scaling up the programme.
The study employed a comparative study approach. The CtCSRP intervention group consisted of young children, parents, Young Facilitators, teachers, school directors, and key stakeholders who had the CtCSRP available to them. The control group consisted of young children and parents who did not have the CtCSRP available to them, but otherwise closely resembled the CtCSRP group. A control group made it possible to infer what the learning outcomes of CtCSRP children would have been if they had not received the programme.
Findings and Conclusions:
Young children who participated in the CtCSRP had significantly higher scores on all early numeracy and literacy tasks tested compared to children in the control group. Positive outcomes were found across all geographical regions in the study, and there is some evidence that the programme effects are larger now than during the pilot phase of the programme five years ago. The CtCSRP appears to have an impact not only on children’s academic skills but on their social skills as well.
Young Facilitators felt happier at school, were more confident, and had more positive attitudes towards learning as a result of participating in the CtCSRP. Their performance in school improved as a result of participating in the CtCSRP. Both teachers and key stakeholders remarked upon the improvement of literacy skills among Young Facilitators and noted that the programme enhanced their leadership skills, their interest in becoming teachers, and increased their sense of belonging in the community.
Results from the parent survey indicate that their understanding of the importance of on-time school enrolment improved and parents in the CtCSRP showed higher scores on awareness of the importance of child development and activities in the home for promoting children’s early learning than parents of children in the control group. Teachers' understanding and use of child-centred teaching methods improved as a result of their participation in the CtCSRP and more child-friendly and cooperative learning environments have been created.
There have been following challenges. Young children rarely received the early learning kit of books and materials proposed in the original CtCSRP design. Furthermore, not all teachers and Young Facilitators have the appropriate guides and training of teachers has not happened as regularly as envisioned in the programme design, often with gaps as long as three years between training. Recurrent per child costs of the CtCSRP somewhere between USD 12 to 53 per child.
Based on the evaluation findings, the following recommendations are presented for the future implementation, sustainability and expansion of CtCSRP:
1. Expand Resources to Ensure Quality and Sustainability: To be implemented effectively and equitably, this programme requires that sufficient materials be in place for children, Young Facilitators, and teachers. Training for teachers and Young Facilitators must be conducted in regular cycles, and materials must be updated to reflect local language, cultural background and needs.
2. Enhance Access for Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Children, both Young Participants and Young Facilitators: Cchool directors and community leaders have an important role to play in identifying and recruiting the most vulnerable young children for the programme, including those children from families with low levels of maternal education.
3. Focus on Literacy as one important piece of a holistic approach to early childhood development. The CtCSRP takes an appropriately holistic approach to early childhood development, and it is important to recognize its contributions not only to literacy but to numeracy and broader psycho-social development. However, the broader findings of this evaluation suggest that while the CtCSRP enhances literacy, children who attend the CtCSRP still have surprisingly low scores in early writing and reading.
4. Ensure Alignment and Integration with National Plan for ECCE: To maximize the benefits of the CtCSRP, it must be aligned with the other three pillars of ECCE in Ethiopia including parent education, health and stimulation, and formal school readiness programs offered through pre-school education.
5. Future Research, Monitoring and Evaluation: Future research is needed to assess the relative effectiveness of not only of different programme delivery models for the CtCSRP, but also to decide how to align the CtCSRP can best be aligned with the Ethiopian government’s plans to expand zero class.
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