Longitudinal Study of Impact of participation in ECE and variation in Quality if ECE Experience on school readiness and primary level outcomes in children

This flagship longitudinal research project was launched by CECED in 2011 is one of its kinds study in the South Asian region. The study aims to estimate the immediate term 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 sustained impact on their educational and behavioural outcomes in primary grades. This ambitious longitudinal study which was renamed as Indian Early Childhood Education Impact (IECEI) Study is following a large cohort, 13686 children born between March, 2007 and February, 2008 in three states of India, Andhra Pradesh (now Telengana), Assam and Rajasthan. The specific research questions of the study are

  1. What are the trends in availability of low cost Early Childhood Education provisions for children and what are the levels of participation of three to five year olds in these programmes?
  2. To what extent are the 3 to 5 year olds ‘school ready” as reflected in their cognitive, language & personal social development?
  3. To what extent are the school readiness levels associated with quality of children’s Early Childhood Education experience? Which elements of the Early Childhood Education content and processes have greater impact on school readiness?
  4. To what extent do the gains made by children at the Early Childhood Education stage in terms of early learning, socialization and school readiness have a sustained impact at the primary stage of education in terms of their psycho-social and educational outcomes?
  5. Given India’s socio-cultural diversities, how would quality be defined in Early Childhood Education?

The above mentioned research questions are being explored through a comprehensive three strand research design which is described in table 1.

Strand Methodology Objectives Sample
A Survey method To derive district level estimates of
(a) trends in participation of 4-5 year olds in ECE programmes
(b) school readiness levels at 5 years
(c) trends in participation of the cohort in primary grades
(d) achievement levels of children on educational outcomes at 6 years, 7
years and 8 years
362 villages1616 centers13868 children
B Quasi-experimental & longitudinal (a) To study quality variations among ECE
provisions across public, private & voluntary sector(b) To identify significant quality variables in ECE that impact school
readiness levels of children(c) To what extent the gains made by children on school readiness is
sustained during primary grades keeping the school quality and household
factors controlled
Sub-set of Strand A sample75 villages298 ECE centers2765 children
C Qualitative Case Study In-depth case studies of innovative practices
in ECE
9 case studies, across many states

The study is being coordinated by CECED in partnership with ASER centre strand A of the study which deals with the survey methodology is being executed by ASER and the strand B and C which looks at the quasi-experimental and case study design is implemented by CECED through partnerships with regional research partners like State Resource Centre for ECE, Andhra Mahila Sabha and National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, Guwahati and other independent researchers. The research project is being funded by multiple agencies, UNICEF, The World Bank, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Care India.

Strand A and B of the study are being carried out in Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Rajasthan whereas strand C, which is case studies of the known ECE provisions running in the country, it was carried out across a number of states, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttrakhand along with two project states Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Strand A and B

The research methodology followed by strand A and B is depicted in Figure 1


The time line of the project is depicted in figure 2 where the project activities carried out till date have been mentioned, the cohort of children, (13686 under strand A and 2765 under strand B) were pre-tested on school readiness skills and concepts between August to December, 2011. Subsequently the cohort was tracked on quarterly bases to estimate the dosage of ECE exposure. A year after the pre-testing the children were reassessed on the same school readiness indicators from August, 12 to January, 13. This marked the end of the first phase of the study which is called the preschool phase, which also resulted in a number of interesting findings and four reports, two each from both the strands. CECED came out with two reports titled, “Quality and Diversity in Early Childhood Education: A view from three states, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Rajasthan” and “Readiness for School Impact of ECE Quality”, where the former report illustrates the variations in ECE programmes available to the children in the three states and the latter explores the extent to which the sample cohort is school ready and how are these levels are related to ECE exposure. The report titled “Quality and Diversity in Early Childhood Education: A view from three states, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Rajasthan” is under publication and the report titled, “Readiness for School Impact of ECE Quality” has been sent the peer reviewers for their comments. The suggestions from the peer reviewers would be incorporated in the report before finalizing it and publishing. These two reports help in answering the first three research questions of the study.

Variations in quality of ECE programmes available to children

The study identified three different models of ECE programmes operating in the field. These include Anganwadi centres, under the government supported ICDS programme, private preschools and few innovative programmes in ECE. The comprehensive and in-depth analysis indicates that there is a wide range in ECE practices not only across models but also within a model across states, pointing to the significant contextual determinants of any ECE programme. Given India’s cultural, socio-linguistic and geographical diversity, one could celebrate these different models as a reflection of this diversity, had there been adherence to a common set of principles of developmentally appropriate curriculum and quality of the ECE programme. But the study finds that it is the above two models i.e. the Anganwadi centres and low budget private preschools that are available to the largest segment of children in underprivileged communities in the country. These programmes depict very few elements of good developmentally appropriate practice, with a predominance of formal teaching and rote memorization, lack of basic facilities, and often a complete disregard of the age and developmental needs and capabilities of children in this stage of childhood.

School Readiness levels of children at entry age to school

The post-test data reflect the readiness of children for formal schooling as during the end-line the children were 5 year old and 5 years is the official age of entry to primary school in grade 1 in most states of India (23 states). It was therefore important to know to what extent are the children ‘ready for school at this age. The results from the study provide a mixed picture regarding school readiness. While across the three states the children appear to be ‘psycho-socially’ ready to go to a primary school and negotiate the demands of the school, it is in the cognitive and language domains that children are deficient in terms of ‘readiness competencies’ required for starting formal schooling in the form of ‘pre academic’ preparation.

Association between school readiness and ECE experience

The findings from the study indicates interesting results and shows positive association between participation of children in ECE programmes and their school readiness levels at age 5 emphasizing the importance and significant impact of ECE experience on children. The findings reflect the importance of a developmentally appropriate for which the broad essentials that emerged out from the data are- a democratic, child friendly teacher, trained and mentored not only in age appropriate and play based activities for ECE, but in planning and classroom organization and management of a well-balanced ECE curriculum, supported by appropriate physical infrastructure.

2013 marked the launch of the second phase of the IECEI study which is called the follow up phase where the sample cohort would be assessed on age appropriate achievement test at age 6, 7 and 8 and their achievement levels would be related to ECE experience after controlling for the household factors and school quality. The sample cohort was assessed on achievement levels from August to December, 2013. Currently the data entry and data cleaning work is in progress. Later in the year the cohort would be assessed on achievement test for 7 year olds. The age appropriate achievement test for 7 year olds was developed and piloted in Rajasthan in February, 2014 and the learning from the pilot will be incorporated in the final version of the tool.

The figure below depicts the time line of the study activities at a glance since 2011.