Most of us want to tell the world about the success of our early childhood program. We especially want to tell others how we built it into a good program, the difficulties we overcame, and the lessons learned. We hope our experience will help others avoid problems if they are forewarned and have some solutions at hand. But it’s more than just that.
Reporting how you implemented your program adds to the body of evidence on what has been tried around the world and provides a menu of sorts from which others can choose and learn.
In the recent Annals of the New York Academy of Science special issue on Early Childhood Development program implementation, Beth Prado and I wrote a chapter offering ways to measure and report on the program you are implementing
The most common programs are group care, center-based early education, home visiting, and parenting groups. Here are a few key items that others are interested in learning about your program, along with suggestions for collecting and sharing this information.
How many people (adults, children) attend, how frequently, for how long, and over how many days/months?
This might be called “reach and intensity.” It usually consists of numbers of people, days, and months. Overall, it indicates who attends your program and how much contact they have with the service providers.
Who are your service providers: their previous education level, length of training, training curriculum, workload, remuneration, supervision, assessment of competence on the job?
Again, some of this information is in the form of numbers (previous education, length of training, workload and remuneration). Other information about the nature of the training curriculum might document how much time is spent learning about child development, how much time creating resources (and what resources), and how much time doing pre-service practice in the setting.
What kind of assessment do you use to determine that your trained people are ready to deliver the service, and on average how many people pass the test after training?
In the field, are they supervised by someone who uses a checklist and how much mentoring is provided during supervision? Some of these measures were reported by Milagros Nores and colleagues in their paper Implementing aeioTU.
What is the quality of your delivered program: how well does it meet standards of what promotes child development and age-appropriate adult childcare?
The quality of a program is closely tied to its effectiveness. The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale–Revised and –Extension (ECERS-R and -E) and the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS) are appropriate for assessing programs in high-income countries. But a newer one called the Measure of Early Learning Environment (MELE) tailored to low- and middle-income countries covers similar domains such as adult-child interaction, play and pre-literacy instruction, but uses a simpler 4-point rating scale and observable qualities.
MELE may be found at www.ecdgroup.org with a document on how to conduct a quality assessment, as well as timelines, training and cost. Other examples are the quality assessments of parenting programs implemented in Malawi, reported in Care for Child Development in Rural Malawi by Melissa Gladstone and colleagues, and Reach Up in Brazil and Zimbabwe in the article by Joanne Smith and colleagues.
How much change do you note in the way adults care for their children?
This is most applicable to a parenting program where you encourage parents to adopt new, more responsive practices. Items from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of UNICEF or the HOME Inventory evaluation of a parenting program in Bangladesh are informative to report. Similar items are found in a measure called the Family Care Indicator reported in Care for Child Development in Rural Malawi by Melissa Gladstone and colleagues.
Who are the stakeholders and how are they engaged?
Tell us who are your stakeholders in the government (at each level), ministry, community, donor agencies, and families. What decision-making and advocacy work do they engage in?
What barriers did you overcome and what helped you succeed?
A summary of key obstacles you surmounted to keep your program on track should be included. You might provide short quotes from staff and stakeholders to illustrate how they participated in improving the program. A good example of this is found in the article Integration of parenting and nutrition interventions in a community health program in Pakistan by Aisha Yousafzai and colleagues.
Consider adding to the evidence base by reporting on implementation of your program and using reports published by others, so that we continue fortifying our knowledge base.
Dr. Aboud is a professor in the Department of Psychology at McGill University. Over the years, she has lived in Ethiopia as a member of the McGill-Ethiopia Community Health team and in Bangladesh working at the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research. Since 2000, Dr. Aboud has also conducted research in Indonesia, India, Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar, Zambia, Mozambique and Ghana.