The Accelerated School Readiness program.
Why getting kids ready for learning is so important
Learning success in school requires children to develop a complex set of skills. Developing the skills needed for learning success happens before children enter the classroom for the first time. Being ready for school is a term used by educators to describe an important set of multifaceted skills a child needs in order to flourish in learning environments.
Mireille Massouka is the Education Partnerships Group Head of Mission in Côte d’Ivoire and leads the Accelerated School Readiness program in collaboration with the Ministère de l’Education Nationale et de l’Alphabétisation. Mireille explains to us what the program is about, how it works and why it is so important.
- What is the Accelerated School Readiness (ASR) programme?
The Accelerated School Readiness Programme (ASR) is an eight-week pilot programme for 5- to 6-year-olds who have not had access to a pre-school programme before first grade. The goal is to prepare the students for first grade to enable them to thrive throughout the rest of their school careers.
The Accelerated School Readiness programme seeks to improve Ivorian children’s on-time transitions to Grade 1 and to reduce early grade repetition. There are two specific programme objectives:
(i) To prepare children, parents, and schools for successful primary schooling.
(ii) To improve the preschool enrolment rate by promoting equitable access to quality early learning.
The ASR programme aims to do this through an 8-week programme for children going into grade one using a play-based learning approach to prepare them for their transitions into grade one and ensure they are on the right path to succeed in school.
2. What will the ASR programme focus on?
The ASR programme has three main components:
- Child readiness: focuses on child development and learning outcomes
- School readiness: focuses on educational outcomes and practices that promote and support a smooth transition to primary school and learning for all children.
- Family readiness: focuses on parents’ and caregivers’ attitudes and involvement in children’s early learning, development and transition to school.
3. Who is implementing the ASR programme?
The ASR is a Ministry led programme, the ministry both commissioned and is implementing the pilot. To ensure ownership of the project and the long-term sustainability of the ASR, the Ministère de l’Education Nationale et de l’Alphabétisation (MENA) chose to position itself as the delivery agent, leading on all implementation activities and working in close collaboration with EPG and an independent evaluator.
MENA played a key role in the preparation and launch of the pilot through key activities. These include the selection of regions and schools for the pilot, the development of the curriculum manuals and guides, developing the training and selecting those to lead the training of facilitators and interviewers, carrying out a census of children, and the mobilization of actors on the ground to ensure the effective implementation of the pilot.
4. What is the problem ASR aims to address?
The Government of Côte d’Ivoire committed to increasing enrolment in pre-primary to 25% by 2025 in its 2016-2025 Sectoral Plan for Education (PSE). This target has been revised downwards to 16% in July 2019, considering the challenges in terms of infrastructure. This objective is meant to be achieved through a combination of building pre-primary classrooms in all new primary schools, restructuring existing kindergartens, establishing community pre-schools and private provision.
The ASR is generally a flexible, age-appropriate programme implemented via an accelerated method to provide access to education for disadvantaged, older and out-of-school children. This model can be applied in the pre-school sector, where a provider delivers a reduced pre-school programme for young people. Given the very low pre-school enrolment rates in Côte d’Ivoire, this model could be an interim solution to help improve access to basic pre-primary education for disadvantaged children and, depending on the design, standards and budget of the programme, could also improve the quality of pre-school education.
5. Why is it important to focus on developing school readiness skills?
There is growing evidence on the value of good quality pre-primary education. Children are more likely to transition to primary school smoothly and at the appropriate age, saving governments money in children repeating years. Children are also more likely to make successful transitions to secondary school and succeed later in their lives.
Although the evidence on accelerated school readiness (ASR) programmes is limited, the literature available highlights that existing ASR programmes have contributed to reducing the learning gap. After participating in an ASR programme, children with no prior experience with pre- primary learning demonstrate improved skills in literacy and numeracy, compared to those who did not attend a pre-school course.
6. How is ASR pilot unfolding?
The ASR pilot is being delivered over 8 weeks, 5 days per week. Each day there are 3 hours of lessons and 1 hour for breaks. The pilot is focused on play-based learning with an emphasis on emergent literacy and maths, social and emotional development and motor skills.
One parent per child will receive parenting education once a week for 8 weeks in addition.
MENA will deliver the pilot to up to 3,000 children, led by the regional education offices in Duékoué in the region of the Guemon, Daloa in the region of Haut-Sassandra, and Soubré in the region of Nawa. The supervision of the children and the parents will be ensured by up to 120 facilitators, all of whom have benefited from the training of the Ministry experts in pre-primary.
7. How will the Ministry of Education assess if ASR is effective in meeting its objectives?
An independent evaluation of the pilot is being conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to determine the extent to which ASR helps to prepare children, parents, and schools for successful primary schooling.
Using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design, AIR will assess the effect of ASR on children’s readiness for starting primary school (measured using the international development and early learning assessment, IDELA, developed by Save The Children) and children’s transition to Grade 1 (indicated by their on-time enrolment and initial attendance at primary school). The RCT will be complemented by qualitative data that will provide insights to parents’ and teachers’ experiences of ASR and views about pre-primary education.
The findings of the independent evaluation will provide the Ministry with unbiased evidence about the ASR programme’s impact, thus equipping them to make decisions about the role of ASR programming in promoting equitable access to quality pre-primary education, with the ultimate goal of improving preschool enrolment in Côte d’Ivoire.