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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2014 Barbados: Formative Evaluation of the Highscope Curriculum Reform Program

Author: Tristi Nichols, Jennifer Greene and Sarah Boeckmann

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is “Outstanding, Best practice”, “Highly Satisfactory”, “Mostly Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 3’ of the report.


The HighScope Curriculum is designed to promote high-quality early education for children and youth worldwide. Theoretically, the curriculum is “a new approach to teaching and learning….research-based and child focused….the HighScope Curriculum uses a carefully designed process — called "active participatory learning"-to achieve powerful, positive outcomes.” (from http://highscope.org).  The effective implementation of the HighScope Curriculum includes a daily routine of: (1) Small and large group activities; (2) Plan-Do- Review; and (3) Outside time. 

The goal of the HighScope Curriculum Reform Programme in the pilot territories (4 countries in total) was threefold:
(1) To improve the learning environments and quality of developmental and educational programmes in a total of 13 preschool settings in the participating countries;
(2) To subsequently showcase the participating centres as “models” in the use of a child-directed curriculum;
and (3) Using these models to inform wider curriculum implementation plans and serve as teacher training demonstration sites for both the participating countries and for the greater Eastern Caribbean sub-region. 

The evidence indicates that the HighScope Curriculum Reform Programme is currently at various stages of model implementation and adaptation, owing to the multiple contexts in which the programme has been implemented.  Given these developments, this formative evaluation is timely. 


The formative evaluation concentrates on how and how well the programme is being implemented; it describes how the programme operates, the services it delivers, and the current benefits of these services.  Based on Terms of Reference, the objectives of this evaluation are to: (1) Assess the [programme] results achieved to date and identify the intended and any unintended results; (2) Identify the opportunities and constraints the programme has faced and draw lessons and good and bad practices from them; (3) Review the operational effectiveness of the pilot, including cost of implementation; and (4) Identify requirements and implications for possibly mainstreaming and implementing an interactive, child-centered curriculum on a national scale in the model countries and other Caribbean countries.


The evaluation approach was participatory, consultative, and concentrated on understanding what is valued by all key stakeholders.  Learning was the focus which included: (1) involving a range of participants to share their views; (2) understanding the overlapping realities of those implementing ECD initiatives in the Caribbean; and (3) encouraging stakeholders to proactively engage in identifying sustainable solutions and recommendations.  The design is mixed methods, sourcing qualitative data (through interviews, focus groups, and observations) from all relevant stakeholders, such as children, parents, teachers, MoE officials, HighScope, and UNICEF.  The quantitative data sources included M&E data from the ECD Units, data from the learning centre disaggregated records from 2008 through 2013, centre expenditures and income, survey data from teachers, and previously undertaken studies.

Findings and Conclusions:

Strong progress in the adaptation and implementation of the HighScope Curriculum  has been achieved.  This finding applied to the policy level, in terms of strengthening ECD services access, as well as to the school level, regarding delivering quality services to children. Evidence confirms that macro-level priorities support the full and equitable access to early childhood education, and the delivery of the HighScope model is consistent with the vision(s) that were outlined in strategic and country-level policy instruments. Evidence from multiple stakeholders confirms that the benefits of the curriculum were valued. For promoting Gender Equality, HighScope model appears to help reduce gender inequalities. The majority of the learning centres also tend to service the most vulnerable children, which demonstrates clear alignment with RBPA and equity concerns. As rights holders, the children are active in constructing worlds that supported their own development through their interactions with the adults and other children. This observation also applies to children with disabilities, although it should not be generalized to all children in the programme. An unknown proportion of duty bearers may not fulfill their responsibilities and the major assumption that the child is a priority within family setting may be unmet. the result of this gap in the theory of change is: When some duty bearer parents do not (1) support their children at home and/or (2) pay school fees, this creates an external constraint directly influencing the effective and efficient delivery of the Curriculum. Also, the early childhood development learning centres experience difficulties collecting funds, and the teachers become frustrated.  A review of the operating costs and the average amount spent on staff salaries confirms that the salaries in the private sector-run institutions are being seriously compromised. This situation, if unaddressed, will affect the rights holders (children, parents).


Prioritised Recommendations
The MoE in all countries should:
• Develop alternate fee strategies which support both efficiency and equity, facilitating access to the most vulnerable families.  This change would effectively ensure that the teachers in the private sector receive payment for services delivered. 
• Invest resources into teacher training in the areas of dealing with children with disabilities (i.e., learning, behavioral and emotional, social, physical disabilities, and visual and hearing impairments), thereby strengthening the equity focus of curriculum delivery.  More practical training in adult–child interactions is also recommended;
• Institute a robust monitoring and evaluation system and a culture of results-based management and practical skills in Monitoring & Evaluation, which are key to identifying children’s accomplishments and future development needs; and
• Prioritize the drafting of legislation (Antigua and Barbuda) and guidelines (the Commonwealth of Dominica) to continue facilitating an enabling policy environment. 

Lessons Learned:

The following lessons would be of interest to other island nations considering adopting the HighScope model. These lessons may overlap with some of the findings presented.

Lesson 1: The student-teacher ratio (ranging between 8 and 15 children assigned to 1 teacher) is fundamental to the HighScope Curriculum’s design.  Failing to adhere could potentially compromise the effectiveness of the intervention. 

Lesson 2:  It is very important to ensure that the outreach with an equity focus is balanced with income.  The lack of sufficient financial compensation for the tireless efforts of teachers could result in their dissatisfaction, and ultimately, poor performance.  Such a reality could also undermine the effectiveness of the delivery of the ECD services.

Lesson 3: Child assessment is critical to building high-quality ECD programmes.  The scope of the assessment system is an important step to consider at the early stages of HighScope Curriculum implementation.  Without a system in place, it is difficult for evidence-based learning to take place.

Find below:

"Report" - Evaluation Report
"Part 2" - Annexes
"Part 3" - GEROS

Full report in PDF

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Report information




Early Childhood Development



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