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This change-making assessment tool helps educators, government, NGOs, researchers and programme developers measure the effectiveness of early learning interventions.

The need

Pre-school programs help young children develop the foundational skills they will need when entering school, but they are only effective if they offer high quality care and education services.

It is therefore essential to have a reliable and valid instrument to assess programme quality, and one that can reasonably be implemented at scale within a developing country context. The particular need was for an affordable, culturally fair, multi-language measure that would not take longer than 45 minutes to administer by experienced and accredited ECD practitioners.

The innovation

The Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM) was designed to address this need. It is a South African pre-school child assessment tool, rigorously standardised, culturally fair and simple to administer that indicates if an ECD programme is effective in preparing children for Grade R, and identifies areas for programmatic improvement.

The ELOM has been constructed to assess two age groups: 50-59 and 60-69 months. The instrument has been peer-reviewed by a wide range of experts, and is aligned with the National Curriculum Framework and other guidelines aimed at providing the best possible education for the child.

The age-normed, psychometrically sound tool enables direct assessment of crucial milestones – such as motor co-ordination, language and literacy development, cognition and executive functioning. It also incorporates the teachers’ assessment of the children in their care, enabling evaluation of emotional and social development in the crucial early years.

The ELOM is not:
Intended as an instrument for assessing school readiness;
A psychological test designed to assess intelligence or diagnose developmental delay, although it could be used to identify children who are significantly behind the standard expected for their age.

Visit the dedicated ELOM website for more information.

Key insights

The development of an assessment tool is, in itself, not an innovation. However, it is essential to the work of Innovation Edge – to enable us to measure the effectiveness of our attempts to strengthen ECD quality.

An ELOM learning community has been established with 13 ECD organisations. These organisations have been trained to administer ELOM and are supported in their efforts to use the tool to assess and enhance the quality of their programmes. The learning community meets regularly to reflect on their experiences. Lessons drawn from the use of ELOM are used to inform enhancements to the manual and to the selection and training of accredited assessors.

A central data repository is being established, to collate the ELOM data from multiple interventions to help strengthen the evidence base of what interventions are most effective and under what conditions.

The project team

Professor Andy Dawes is a clinical and developmental psychologist and Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town.

Linda Biersteker is a developmental psychologist and independent Early Childhood Development specialist.

Elizabeth Girdwood is an economist, focusing on early child-centered research and developmental interventions.

Matthew Snelling is a Monitoring and Evaluation specialist and a Doctoral Candidate in the Institute for Monitoring and Evaluation at the University of Cape Town.