Earlier this month, the Consortium on Pre-Primary Data and Measurement in Africa (CPDMA) convened the CPDMA Taskforce Conference: ECE Data Utilization to Impact Change in Kigali, Rwanda, co-hosted by the Rwanda Ministry of Education, National Early Childhood Development Program (Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion), and USAID. Nearly fifty participants from ten countries joined the meeting. The meeting kicked off with remarks from USAID Mission Director, Leslie Marbury, and MINEDUC Director General of Education and Planning, Rose Baguma, who both expressed their enthusiasm for the workshop, emphasizing the importance of data in supporting pre-primary education in Rwanda.

In the spirit of “what gets measured gets done,” the ECD Measure team provided context for the meeting around its “Data for Impact Framework,” which outlines the process for defining how early childhood data can be used for impact in early childhood education systems.

This framework was developed through both a literature review and by collecting experiences of government and researchers who use data in their work. Data can be used at each level of an ECE system to influence change in behavior or decision-making, and feedback loops are especially important.

We next heard from the four CPDMA country taskforce teams (Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda and South Africa) about their experiences in designing and implementing ECE data systems.

  • Rwanda practices a strong multi-sectoral approach and has a comprehensive ECD policy that cuts across sectors. This is coordinated through several mechanisms, including: an ECD data dashboard, ECD cluster meetings, ECD Technical Working Group, and district/local level coordination. There are many opportunities to strengthen data use issues in Rwanda, including introducing measurement of learning at the pre-primary level, continued efforts to get research findings to reach policymakers and other decision-makers, and using data to ensure investments are effective.
  • Liberia has used data from several studies to inform an ECE framework and teacher training curriculum. Ensuring reliable data in Liberia is a challenge, and data interpretation is sometimes based on political or personal potential benefits. The University of Liberia has used effective data feedback loops through its training and ongoing supervision of volunteer teachers, which offers a promising strategy for scaling. The team has expressed interest in monitoring classroom level pre-primary quality, with the intention of providing feedback and support to teachers to help them improve their practice.
  • In Ethiopia, the government and partners are interested in understanding the quality of the various pre-primary modalities in the country. Measurement of quality and child outcomes is critical for understanding where to invest, and in particular, how to reach the less advantaged children. Data can convince government on why and how to invest in early childhood. There are existing mechanisms (such as Healthy Extension Program/home visiting) that can be built upon to create reliable and transparent data systems in ECD. The Government of Ethiopia and partners have also recently conducted a study to measure early learning quality and outcomes and plan to continue to build off of this work.
  • In South Africa the migration of ECD from Department of Social Development to Department of Basic Education is in line with other countries’ placement of ECD services and provides opportunities for improving processes, particularly around integration of ECD data with existing system and improving the registration process. South Africa is planning a national ECD audit, which is an opportunity to build upon and improve data from previous audits, as well as to think through the policy decisions the audit can inform. There is a strong need to have systems in place to keep data current and allow ECD programs to update their information. The Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM) is South Africa’s national direct assessment and teacher-report tool which includes 23 indicators across 5 domains.

Between presentations, participants engaged in learning activities, such as working in groups to creatively envision and build an ideal ECE data system. We even broke into song at times. On the second day, participants heard from African experts on various “data for impact” issues, including data feedback loops in Ghana, ECD data collection, management, and use in Rwanda, a national study to measure early learning and quality in Ethiopia, translating data to policy improvements in Tanzania, and embedding data utilization into programming through Grow ECD in South Africa.

The conference included visits to two pre-primary schools. Participants observed using items from the Brief Evaluation of Quality Instrument (BEQI), a monitoring tool designed to be easy to use and capture important parts of quality which show associations with child learning. Participants were impressed by the overall quality at each of the ECE facilities. In both sites, they observed children participating in play-based learning. Participants also noted the holistic nature of the services in one of the schools, which provided parent support and engagement and also offered points of coordination across services.

At the end of the conference, participants developed roadmaps charting out their next steps. South Africa is developing an index to report on SDG 4.2.1., the percent of children who are developmentally on track using the ELOM tool that has been validated in South Africa.  They are also embarking on the process of mapping out all ECD services through their ECD audit, and will examine how to turn this information into a dashboard. Liberia plans to formulate a task team to do a desk review of the existing policies related to indicators, and then will begin the process of harmonizing tools to create one tool, which they plan to validate in 2020 and take to the government for approval.  Tanzania plans to initiate a discussion to clarify the main issues in ECE data and measurement, and then will develop a platform for collecting, analyzing and improving their capacity for ECE-related data.  Ethiopia will build on the action planning taking place across the sector and will propose an integrated ECD model of different sectors, and will then develop the tools to track progress within this system for children up to age 5.  Rwanda plans to conduct an assessment to see the impact of ECE by measuring learning among children entering Primary 1, using a tool adapted to the Rwandan context.  They will use available data to improve ECD and work on ECD dashboard, and establish connections with EMIS.  Regional plans include a focus on activities that can accelerate action at the country level. The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Inter-Country-Quality Node for Early Childhood Development (ICQN-ECD) will act as a community of practice to bring countries together for peer learning and to serve as a platform for regional solutions (such as creating regional tools). 

Over the next three months, CPDMA will be working on producing a technical guide to ECD data and measurement, and work with members to develop options for the future of the consortium.