Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes (MELQO)
The importance of early development for later school achievement, health and well-being has been clearly established. Yet, there is limited information about the state of young children’s development and the quality of their learning experiences prior to primary school. Reliable, comprehensive data on young children’s development and the quality of their learning environments is needed to help address the problem of poor learning outcomes. The data can be used to monitor progress towards national and global goals and to ensure that schools and community organizations offer appropriate settings to support children’s holistic development. With early childhood development and learning as a likely target for the post-2015 education agenda, the need for this data is more urgent than ever.
The MELQO Consortium
MELQO is a consortium of individuals and institutions working to improve outcomes for young children by making early learning assessment more accessible around the world. While approaches to measuring early childhood development and learning have been developed, these efforts are uncoordinated and few are presently used at scale across countries or regions, especially in low- and middle-income countries, and fewer still are used to monitor and improve systems.
The Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes Project will build on the strengths of measurement initiatives that have already been developed, addressing the need for better systematic data collection on children’s development and learning at the start of primary school (approximately 6 years of age), and quality of learning environments in early childhood education through the following activities:
- Bringing together and building upon existing regional early learning and quality assessments (see list of experts and assessments forming the Technical Advisory Group);
- Identifying core items across instruments to build regional and global comparability, using the most promising technically robust and feasible approaches for measurement, especially for low- and middle-income countries;
- Working closely with national stakeholders to map their existing assessment efforts and ensuring that the tools are informed by national perspectives and research;
- Providing guidance to countries on how to move from prototype piloting to implementation at scale by assessing the institutional changes needed and the cost involved;
- Designing tools to help governments take measurement to scale to integrate within existing data systems and develop policies that improve early learning environments and outcomes; and
- Making all tools and manuals open-source and freely available and providing technical guidance to users.
What types of tools is the MELQO Consortium developing?
Currently, the consortium is developing two complementary tools, which could be used on their own or integrated into an existing early learning assessment:
- Child development and learning: A set of core items drawn from existing regional and international assessments is being field-tested and will be used to assess children’s development and includes both a direct child assessment and a parent/teacher report. The goal is to have an assessment with 25-30 items which will take around 35 minutes to administer. The items included cover socio-emotional skills, pre-academic skills such as language, pre-literacy and pre-numeracy, and areas that support learning across multiple domains, such as executive function, persistence, self-regulation, and approaches to learning.
- Quality of early learning environments: An approach is being developed to create tools to measure “systems to settings,” to capture both the systems-level factors and characteristics of settings. It is expected to include items in the following domains: environment and physical setting; family and community engagement; personnel; interactions; structural support; inclusiveness; program structure and curriculum; and health and hygiene.
The assessments are designed for use by national governments, teachers and school administrators and can be administered by someone with limited training. The emphasis is on producing data that can be used to improve the quality of learning environments and children’s development and learning, through links with national curricula, quality standards, and teacher/parent support and training. The data will also help in tracking of children’s readiness for school regionally or globally, if a sufficiently large number of countries adopt the tools and report on results.
Timeline and Next Steps
During 2015, a set of core items will be identified and the instruments and associated manuals and guidelines will be piloted, tested and validated in at least six countries, ensuring diversity in regions, language, wealth, and size. The piloting process will not only consider the reliability and validity of the instrumentation, but will also address the practical requirements to integrate the instrumentation into population-wide monitoring systems. By early 2016, the instruments and manuals will be freely available open-source for any country, agency, or organization to use. The ultimate aim is that countries are able to adapt the instruments locally to their culture and context, and to embed the measurement process in existing system-wide monitoring and evaluation programs to improve early learning and development for all children.