Overview MELQO : Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes
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The Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes (MELQO) initiative began in 2014 in anticipation of this new global emphasis on early childhood development (ECD). Led by UNESCO, the World Bank, the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution and UNICEF, the initiative aims to promote feasible, accurate and useful measurement of children’s development and learning at the start of primary school, and of the quality of their pre-primary learning environments. Items are designed for children between the ages of 4 and 6 years. Following the premise that many existing tools include similar items, the leading organizations’ core team worked with a consortium of experts, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and multilaterals to build upon current measurement tools to create a common set of items organized into modules for measuring: 1) early childhood development and learning, and 2) the quality of pre-primary learning environments. The MELQO core team and experts also collaborated to outline a process for context-specific adaptation of the measurement modules resulting from lessons learned from field-testing in several countries in 2015 and 2016. The modules are designed to be implemented at scale, with an emphasis on feasibility for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). A key question addressed by MELQO was the balance between a global tool suitable for use everywhere, and local priorities and goals for children’s development. As a result, MELQO placed strong emphasis on the process of cultural adaptation and alignment with national standards. The modules can be integrated into other measurement tools for young children that may have already been used, or adapted to contain locally generated items with the possibility of using this common set for regional and global comparisons. In its first phase, MELQO’s long-term goal was to contribute to technically robust measurement tools in a synchronized, integrated manner, which will lead to both national and global improvements in the quality of information on early childhood development and learning. The MELQO consortium has worked to meet this goal in two ways: first, through technical work on developing, field-testing and refining the common items in the modules, and second, by facilitating a platform where experts and users of measurement tools for early childhood can learn from each other’s work. Many tools have been developed to measure child development and learning and the quality of learning environments for young children, which together represent a wealth of technical ingenuity and commitment to reliable measurement within specific countries or regions. However, there is now greater demand at the global and national levels for population-based tools, especially those that could be used to track trends in equity over time. It is clear that measuring children’s nutrition and health status is not enough to fully address equity because the indicators are narrowly focused on important but not holistic information on children’s development. Nor are enrolment and completion rates sufficient measures of equity in education, as millions of children are enrolling in school and reaching third grade without acquiring even basic literacy and math skills (UNESCO, 2014). Knowing the quality of children’s learning environments and what children are able to do at the start of school is an essential first step for any improvement efforts, as reflected by SDG Target 4.2. The MELQO consortium envisions its measurement tools as a lever for change, providing data to support specific changes in policies and programmes that will improve learning worldwide.