Panel Paper: An Intervention to Improve Preschool Quality in Ghana: Testing Demand- and Supply-Side Strategies to Improve Preschool Choice and Quality in Peri-Urban Accra

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 10:35 AM
Nambe (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sharon Wolf1, Alice Wuermli2, J. Lawrence Aber3, Jere Behrman4, Sarah Kabay3, Dana Charles McCoy5, Loic Watine6 and Chase Stafford6, (1)University of Wisconsin - Madison, (2)University of California, Davis, (3)New York University, (4)University of Pennsylvania, (5)Harvard University, (6)Innovations for Poverty Action
Urbanization is growing rapidly internationally, and in sub-Saharan Africa in particular.  This has led to the development of overcrowded peri-urban slums that often lack decent living conditions and basic social services.  As an increasing number of the world’s young children are growing up in such conditions, this context becomes particularly important to consider in studying the role of early childhood education (ECE) in promoting child development and well-being, yet very little is known about what services exist in these settings.  An exploratory study to characterize the scope of, demand for and quality of early education services in peri-urban Accra found that there is a high demand from parents for ECE services –more than 85% of 3-6 year olds are enrolled preschool – and almost all schools in the area were private. 

First, this paper will present quantitative and qualitative findings on parental perceptions of preschool education, direct observations of preschool classrooms, as well as general descriptive statistics from the exploratory study to characterize the nature of ECE services in peri-urban Accra. Findings suggest the instructional focus of most classroom time is spent on literacy and numeracy; the majority of class time is spent sitting in rows of desks facing the front of the classroom with little child participation; and corporal punishment is accepted by some as a necessary means to teach young children self-control, creating an environment high in extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation.  Furthermore, parents report high levels of satisfaction with their child’s preschool education, and 80% report that their main motivation for sending their child to school is to learn skills/be prepared for primary schools.

Second, this paper will present on the design and preliminary pilot findings of an intervention designed to improve the quality of preschool services that builds on these descriptive findings. Using a randomized control trial design, the study aims to test the relative effectiveness of two interventions and their combined effects, targeting the “demand side” (i.e., parents) by providing an educational program for parents on early childhood development and learning to improve parents’ understanding of what to what to look for and demand regarding quality in their preschool choice; and the “supply side” (i.e., schools) program for schools training teachers and headmasters in “best practices” of early childhood education.  200 schools will be randomly sampled and assigned to one of four conditions (demand-side only, supply-side only, demand and supply-side, control.  Planned strategies to involve the Ghanaian Ministry of Education (MoE), as well as implications of the findings for the MoE’s current plans to improve preschool education will be discussed.