The ECD Measure team is pleased to be partnering with colleagues from Universidad del Norte (Barranquilla, Colombia) and University of Liberia (Monrovia, Liberia) to test new ways to measure the quality of early childhood education (ECE).
ECD Measure has recently developed the Brief Early Quality Inventory (BEQI) tool, which is designed to capture key components of play-based learning and interactions between teachers and children. Building off of research from other ECE quality tools, including our team’s extensive experience with the Measuring Early Learning Environment (MELE) tool of the MELQO project, we recognized the need for simpler ways to gather context-specific evidence on quality environments. We designed the BEQI instrument as an easy-to-use checklist that can be adapted by country context. It can be used as a research tool, integrated into monitoring systems or used as formative assessment.
In Liberia, there has been recent momentum to improve ECE quality throughout the country. Liberia’s new pre-primary curriculum and teacher planning guide emphasize child-centered and play-based approaches. However, classroom instruction is not regularly monitored, making it difficult to determine whether teachers are effectively implementing these approaches. A 2018 study conducted by Oxford Policy Management, in partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Education and the World Bank, revealed that public ECE classrooms engage more in rote teaching than play-based methods.
A team at the University of Liberia Teachers College, led by Dr. Cecelia Cassell, is partnering with the Ministry of Education and ECD Measure to adapt the BEQI instrument to capture key components of teaching and classroom quality. Compared with longer research tools, which take considerable effort to train and interpret results, the Liberian team has embraced the BEQI instrument as a more user-friendly tool that offers a potential to be integrated into the existing education monitoring system. The team is also eager to use the BEQI tool and results to apply to improvements in ECE teacher training in Liberia.
In 2020, the BEQI items have been aligned to the national curriculum, teachers guide and national ECE standards. Several country-specific items related to early literacy and numeracy priorities in the national curriculum have been added to the Liberian tool. Dr. Cassell’s team at the University of Liberia has consulted with the Ministry of Education’s Bureau of Early Childhood Education, Department of Instruction and Bureau of Teacher Education, who approved of the adapted tools in April 2020.
Colombia’s “From Zero to Forever” (De Cero a Siempre) policy and strategy have been internationally recognized as a meaningful national effort to prioritize comprehensive early childhood development, including the quality of ECE settings. In Colombia, early childhood services are delivered through center-based services (Centros de Desarrollo Infantil [CDIs]), as well as community-based and family-based programs targeting low-income and vulnerable children (e.g., Hogares Comunitaros de Bienestar [HCB]).
A team at Universidad del Norte, led by Dr. Elsa Escalante, is building off of national and regional efforts to measure and improve quality in Barranquilla, Colombia. The BEQI instrument will be used to measure quality in community-based and center-based settings. The Secretary of Education of the Atlántico Department in Colombia has been actively involved in the tool review and planning process and is eager to use the adapted tool to monitor the quality of ECE settings in Atlántico, as part of broader departmental efforts to improve ECE quality. The Universidad del Norte team has carefully aligned the BEQI to existing national ECE guidelines from both the Ministry of Education and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (Instituto Colombiano del Bienestar Familiar [ICBF]). In addition, the team has consulted with ECE experts from the Atlántico Secretary of Education, ICBF and ECE centers to gather feedback to ensure the tools are culturally appropriate and relevant to local priorities for ECE quality.
In March 2020, the Colombia and Liberia teams were virtually trained and are now reliable on the BEQI instruments. During the global COVID-19 pandemic, teams are taking this time to consult with ECE stakeholders, adapt training materials and prepare for data collection, which will take place when schools re-open in Colombia and Liberia. Upon re-opening, both teams plan to complete 90-minute classroom observations and a brief teacher interview in 30 to 50 sites.
ECD Measure is looking forward to our continued work with our cross-country BEQI team. Our goal is to create a reliable and valid tool that can collect quality monitoring data in a variety of contexts. Equally as important, we’re meeting our goal to engage in cross-country discussions about the definitions of ECE quality, which has enhanced the global and country-level perspectives about how to effectively measure quality.
The BEQI team includes Dr. Abbie Raikes (ECD Measure, University of Nebraska Medical Center), Dr. Dawn Davis (ECD Measure, University of Nebraska), Rebecca Sayre (ECD Measure), Dr. Cecelia Cassell (University of Liberia), Dr. Elsa Escalante ((Universidad del Norte), and Marilyn Anturi LInero (Universidad del Norte).