Problem the program addresses: The program addresses the lack of adequate access to pre-school education for 73 percent of Ethiopia’s children, including the high cost of pre-schools. Local governments are slowly setting up one-year pre-schools (also called O classes) as a downward extension of primary schools. However, this approach has high infrastructure and management costs because new classrooms are needed to accommodate the children and new teachers with new training are required nationwide. As a result, the progress towards universalization of early childhood education through O classes is likely to be slow and necessarily a long-term strategy. Currently, only 16 percent of children have access to O classes. As successive educational development plans strive to achieve this goal, a generation of children may lose the opportunity to enter school equipped with adequate skills to participate and learn. Therefore, urgent interim measures are needed to ensure that all children have access to school readiness programs of reasonable quality and low cost.
Description of the solution: The program offers a 150-hour accelerated readiness program for children entering Grade 1 (7 years of age) who have not attended O class.
Schools conduct a household survey of the households in their catchment area in May of each year. The survey will identify those children eligible to enter Grade 1 in the coming academic year who have not attended O class. From this point, the approach varies depending on whether or not the school has an O class.
- For schools that have an O class, the identified children will be invited to attend a two-month summer program run by O class teachers that will provide a 150-hour pre-literacy and pre-numeracy curriculum. Teachers will be paid an honorarium.
- For schools that do not have an O class, the identified children will undergo the same 150-hour pre-literacy and pre-numeracy program during the first two months of Grade 1, in place of the regular Grade 1 curriculum. The program will be taught by the school’s Grade 1 teachers.
Low-cost learning materials will be provided to the schools including early childhood education “kits,” teacher resource books, and student activity sheets/workbooks for the approximately 40 days of the program. Partnerships will be developed with local newspaper companies to develop learning materials on newsprint, providing cost savings over alternatives.
The program will be piloted in one region of Benishangul Gumuz. It is anticipated that if children are able to successfully exhibit minimum levels of readiness and improved retention at a cost lower than one-year pre-school, local governments would be willing to expand this program with their own funds.
- Government: It is anticipated that the program would be implemented with the government’s full collaboration. The program has been discussed with the state Minister for General Education and the Director of Curriculum Reform at the Ministry of Education, both of whom have received the idea enthusiastically. There are plans to host a meeting where the Ministry will introduce the concept to the Regional Education Bureaus.
- Schools: Once the program is initiated, a planning workshop will be convened by the Ministry first with Regional Education Bureaus and then with all school principals to explain the program and the benefits it is expected to bring to the school. School principals will be engaged in identifying target outcomes levels for their schools and planning for the summer program or Grade 1 program. Schools and teachers will be the central provider of the program.
- Other: UNICEF Ethiopia conceived and developed this project in collaboration with Save the Children and both organizations have presented it jointly to the government. There is limited funding from other major INGOs and donors in the area of early childhood education in Ethiopia.
Image courtesy of UNICEF and Image Think
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CEI approaches in action
May 2015 survey data will be used to determine the number of children eligible to enroll in Grade 1 in September 2015 who did not attend O class. This number will be used to set targets for the number of children enrolled in the two-month program. The number of schools participating in the Benishangul Gumuz region will depend on funding availability.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The following data will be collected:
- Children who attend the two-month program will be assessed on school readiness skills at the end of the program. Children’s performance will be tracked throughout the year following the program to monitor learning levels and retention rates in school.
- Data on enrollment, attendance, and curriculum covered during the two-month program will be reported by each cluster center (serving a group of five schools) and will be used locally to follow up on issues of attendance and quality.
- Setting the baseline: a school readiness assessment will be administered to a sample of children entering Grade 1 in September 2014. This data will be used as a baseline, with the program beginning with the two-month in summer and fall 2015.
- A third party will administer a school readiness assessment at the beginning of the school year in September 2015 for all children in Grade 1. Children’s readiness based on their participation in O school or the accelerated program will be analyzed.
- For the children attending the non-summer accelerated program, the school readiness assessment will be conducted in November 2015 in order to assess their readiness before starting formal lessons.
- The data on Grade 1 completion in May 2016 will provide information on the efficacy the readiness program and will be used for widespread advocacy.
- Cost-effectiveness data will be obtained through detailed costing processes and external evaluations.
This program builds on the 36-hour Child-to-Child readiness program, which resulted in significant cognitive gains in participating children. Expected results include:
- 50 percent increase in the number of children in the pilot area entering Grade 1 with minimum levels of school readiness (measured by a readiness skills assessment at the end of the two-month program)
- Schools, woredas (districts), and regional administrators will not only report data on attendance in O class but on assessed level of school readiness
- Existing O classes of low quality will adopt the methods demonstrated in the two-month accelerated program
- The federal Ministry of Education will include accelerated school readiness programs in the 2015 Education Sector Development Program as an interim strategy for ensuring school readiness