The power of local engagement to measure early childhood education

The Consortium for Pre-primary Data and Measurement in Africa is helping generate relevant and usable data to measure the quality of pre-primary education.

August 08, 2019 by Abbie Raikes, ECD Measure and Rebecca Sayre, ECD Measure
4 minutes read
Student in the first and second grade classroom, Khokkham Primary School, Khokkham Village, Pak Ou District, Lao PDR.
Student in the first and second grade classroom, Khokkham Primary School, Khokkham Village, Pak Ou District, Lao PDR.
GPE/Kelley Lynch

As countries invest in early childhood education, data become essential for making effective decisions and setting strategic priorities. Obtaining good data on the quality of pre-primary education has been a big challenge around the world. A 2017 GPE review of 48 education sector plans (ESPs) showed that nearly all plans included basic data on access rates to pre-primary education. However, only 6 plans provided data on the quality of the pre-primary learning environment or student learning outcomes. This revealed a persistent problem regarding the availability of data.

Countries haven’t had access to these data for many reasons including: data are expensive to collect, and sometimes are project-based (and therefore are either collected only once or are not nationally representative). Additionally, it may be difficult to find data collection instruments on the classroom environment or child development outcomes that are appropriate for the context and the capacity required to collect and analyze data is substantial.

Improving data for pre-primary education

With the addition of Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes (MELQO) and other tools, data on pre-primary education is becoming easier to obtain. The MELQO project was launched in 2014 in anticipation of a new global emphasis on early childhood development and was convened by UNESCO, the World Bank, the Brookings Institution and UNICEF. 

With the support of a large consortium of experts and stakeholders, the MELQO tools were created to provide country-level evidence on child development and learning. This was in response to countries demanding more national data, and to help improve global monitoring. To date, the MELQO tools have been implemented in over 30 countries. 

Advocating for using data for impact

However, with new data and tools on the quality of early childhood education now available, we need to ensure data are used effectively to advocate for change.  For MELQO, our initial purpose was to use existing global tools of pre-primary quality and child development to measure the effectiveness of pre-primary education systems and help countries improve them.

But after our initial field testing of the tools in several pilot countries in 2015 and 2016, we realized that once the data were gathered and analyzed, most countries faced challenges in effectively using the data to improve policies. Reasons for this were a general lack of political focus on pre-primary education, insufficient funding, tools that may not have fully captured local nuances and/or local capacity to analyze data and make actionable change.

Once these challenges were understood, we shifted our focus to empowering our partners in these countries to build local capacity, to successfully plan, advocate, and move things forward within their own country systems. We also recognized the great value of these country teams sharing experiences with each other in order to shine a light on successful capacity-building programs.

Engaging locally and building capacity 

In fall 2018, the Consortium for Pre-Primary Data and Measurement in Africa (CPDMA) was launched to  address these challenges. It is supported by USAID, the Africa Early Childhood Network and the ADEA Inter-Country Quality Node on Early Childhood Development and now includes researchers, NGOs, donors (foundations, bi-laterals, multilaterals) and government officials from African countries.

It’s great news that USAID has recently highlighted pre-primary education as part of its global education strategy.  Earlier this year, the ECD Measure team and USAID held the first convening of CPDMA to bring together stakeholders with common interest in promoting capacity on data and measurement in early childhood education.  CPDMA members have generated and shared ideas around data measurement in pre-primary education, building local capacity in Africa, and strengthening connections with education partners on the ground. 

As CPDMA continues to develop and grow, we plan on leveraging the institutional knowledge of African universities and researchers to create connections across and within participating countries.

Join the Consortium for Pre-Primary Data and Measurement in Africa

We recently met with CPDMA taskforce team members in Mauritius at the ADEA Leadership Capacity Building Workshop, where we had an opportunity to delve into questions on data and measurement in Liberia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and South Africa. The CPDMA will meet again in Rwanda in the fall of 2019.

CPDMA will continue to address the needs of our members by developing tools that work, publishing methods and experiences and, ultimately, finding ways to build capacity for our African partners who are tackling challenges around data use and sustainability.  We welcome new members to CPDMA and look forward to hearing great examples of how early childhood data have helped promote progress.

For more information about the CPDMA please contact or visit the Consortium page on

For more detailed information about the MELQO tools, please visit the MELQO page on


The ECD Measure Team includes Kate Anderson, Dawn Davis, Abbie Raikes, Rebecca Sayre, and Maggie Smith.

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