3ie ~ International Initiative for Impact Evaluation

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Early Childhood Development

Evidence shows that early childhood is a crucial phase in the development of a person.

What happens – or doesn’t happen – to children in the first years of life has immediate effects on their well-being and their future. 

3ie supported studies are generating crucial evidence on the impact of early childhood related interventions. The studies address key policy questions: Does it make sense to invest in preschool? What investments need to be made to get children better equipped for primary school? What is the impact of daycare programmes on children?

Evaluating the impact of pre-school education on young children in Mozambique

In Africa, the majority of children under the age of five years do not grow or learn to their full potential. There has so far been little evidence on the impact of early learning interventions in the continent.

A randomised control trial was conducted to assess the effectiveness of Save the Children’s preschool programme on children’s enrolment and readiness for primary school in rural Mozambique. This 3ie supported study is the first evaluation of an early childhood development programme in Africa. 

Policy lessons

  • Children in preschool were 24 per cent more likely to enroll in primary school and were significantly better equipped to learn than kids not enrolled in preschool.
  •  Children attending the preschool were much more likely to show interest in math and writing, recognize shapes and show respect for other children than those who are not.
  • Preschool has a positive ripple effect on a child’s wider family; parents of enrolled kids were 26 per cent more likely to work, while some older siblings were able to go to school themselves.

How policy has changed

As a result of these findings, the Ministry of Education is now planning to extend community based preschools to 600 communities. Early childhood education was included in the country's 2012-2016 national education plan. The government of Mozambique also has created a national early childhood development commission. 

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The impact of daycare programmes on child health, nutrition and development in developing countries

Women's labour force participation is growing - especially in Latin America and the Caribbean - with more than half the women around the world now working outside the home (UN, 2010). As more women take up jobs in developing countries, the demand for daycare services is increasing. 

There are arguments on both sides as to whether it is good or bad for children to be placed in day care. For example, a mother who finds a job as a consequence of day care being available might earn a higher income, allowing her to buy more nutritious food for her children. But the job will also mean that she has less time to care for her children. Social interaction between children may improve child development but may also lead to more exposure to communicable diseases. So what is the impact of daycare on children?

The 3ie funded study ‘The impact of daycare programs on child health, nutrition and development in developing countries: a systematic review’, systematically reviews evidence from impact evaluations of programmes in Latin America providing formal out-of-home care for children under the age of five.

Policy lessons

  • Daycare programmes have a positive impact on child development.
  • The evidence on health and nutrition, which has fewer studies, is not so clear.
  • The impact of daycare programmes is determined by the difference between the quality of care provided in the daycare setting and that of the alternative forms of care children would have received in the absence of daycare. This is often ignored in impact evaluations.

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