A pressing question about early education is if it improves academic performance. This question matters in the context of global development: we want children from low-income households to perform better in school and do better in life.
What’s good for the gander, is also good for the goose?
Yet, one of the limitations of RCTs is that findings are straddled within the context of the study. In other words, researchers are sometimes hesitant to turn insights from one study into principles applicable across geographies and time, as it can be difficult to predict similar results / insights in different settings.
Given this challenge, it may help to look at an evaluation of preschool done in the developing world.
So what does this mean for government and social enterprise?
Based on the mixed picture from these studies, it is less than clear that governments across the developing world – and development agencies – should support the broad-scale launch of preschool programs.
Given that primary schools – which we also know have a positive impact on livelihoods – are a basic block of education and face, among other challenges, high children and teacher absenteeism rates, it makes sense to, firstly, get primary education right.
Social enterprises, though, may have an opportunity to shed light on the impact of preschool on academic performance in specific geographic contexts. This could be done by organizations like Bridge, working with other organizations like JPAL, to assess the impact of preschool.
And given social enterprise’s unending desire for scale, if it does come out that preschool is a vital component for children’s success in the developing world, these insights could shape government policy. In turn, scale, at a preschool level, could be achieved.
Here is to (possibly?) more tears and excitement, the world over.