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The Indian Early Childhood Education Impact (IECEI) Study: Longitudinal research study in the States of Rajasthan, Assam and Telangana

Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED) at Ambedkar University Delhi and ASER Centre, with support from UNICEF India, conducted an Indian Early Childhood Education Impact (IECEI) study, a longitudinal, mixed method research study which is perhaps the first of its kind in India in several respects. The study was conducted in three very different states of the country: Assam, Rajasthan and Telangana (erstwhile Andhra Pradesh), and followed a cohort of 12000 four year old children about 12,000 four-year-old children in rural India for four years, from age 4 to age 8. The study aimed to estimate the immediate impact of early childhood education experience on school readiness levels (assessed in terms of cognitive and language concepts and psycho-social skills) of children at the age of entry to grade one and the sustained impact (of preschool experience) on children’s educational and behavioural outcomes during primary grades.

The study followed a mix method design. While the largest fraction of data collection employed survey methodology, a significant proportion involved the use of comprehensive observation tools to collect detailed information on the quality of preschool and school facilities, staff and classroom processes. In addition, case studies and qualitative interviews at different points during the study provide a rich and layered understanding of some key ingredients of a good quality preschool, how parents think about what their young children should be doing and the decisions they take with respect to their children’s education.

The study was coordinated by CECED in partnership with Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Centre. It is multi donor study and largely funded by UNICEF.

Some of the key findings were that seven out of every ten sampled four-year olds were already attending a preschool program. Participation in good quality preschools leads to higher readiness levels, which in turn lead to better early grades outcomes, but the school readiness at age 5 during school entry, the children’s school readiness is far below expectations. It was also seen that from” multi-tasked Anganwadi worker to a ‘Demand-driven private schools, the quality of preschool education is not developmentally appropriate for children. The study report was launched in 2017 by UNICEF at Central and Regional levels.

Each year, UNICEF offices around the world – including country offices, regional offices, national committees, and headquarters – are invited to submit their best and most recent examples of research for children. The aim is to bring attention to work that contributes to shifting policy agendas and has a high potential for impact on policies and programmes that benefit children. This IECEI studyRecently, the study has been acknowledged as one of the three research projects for special recognition among the 10 finalists in the 'Best of UNICEF Research 2019' awards. Rigorous international selection process is followed to identify three top studies from among ten finalists.

Showcasing some of the most innovative and rigorous research coming out of UNICEF, this year’s winners cover a range of topics, locations, cultures and levels of economic development, including education in India, violence in the Middle East and North Africa, humanitarian aid in the Democratic Republic of Congo, migration, child rights, sanitation and more. This year, UNICEF Innocenti identified 10 finalists which were then independently reviewed by an external panel of international experts.

Acknowledging their originality, strong conceptualization, sound methodology, and high potential for impact, the 2019, the panel commended the rigorous nature of this research as well as the methods adopted to assess the quality of early childhood education programs.

It has been stated while announcing the award, "the choice of measures and assessment tools are considered appropriate and clearly highlight the links between school readiness and subsequent early grade outcomes."

The 'Best of UNICEF Research 2019' awards were announced on the UNICEF website: https://www.unicef-irc.org/article/1921-best-of-unicef-research-2019-winners-announced.html

In 2019, CECED has also published a book on IECEI study in collaboration with ASER based on further analysis of data and findings of this study. The title of the book is “Going to school but not ready: Early childhood education and school readiness in India” and the publisher is Springer Publication. The Editors of the book was are Venita Kaul and Suman Bhattacharjea.

This book has been conceptualized primarily around the concept of school readiness which emerges as a very potent factor in the study, particularly in the context of addressing the decline in learning levels of children which is becoming a national concern.

It considers school readiness from a threefold perspective of:

  • Are children ready for school?
  • Are schools ready for children and
  • Are families ready for preparing children for school?

Link of the book: Click Here