Quality of early childhood development programs in global contexts: Rationale for investment, conceptual framework and implications for equity [dataset]

Pia Rebello, Britto Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Kimberly Boller
2011 PsycEXTRA Dataset   unpublished
A cross nations, Early Childhood Development (ecd) programs are of great interest to policymakers, service providers, and families. ecd programs are cross-cutting, often involving the health, education, child welfare, and other sectors, and their emphases shift over the early childhood years. In this paper, the authors propose equity as the construct central to the provision of ecd programs in an international context. Equity can be conceptualized relative to two components, access and quality.
more » ... access and quality. In the past there has been greater focus on building access to ecd program services with less emphasis placed on quality, particularly when programs are taken to scale in low-and middle-income (lami) countries. Quality is a key feature because when programs of low quality are provided, they are unlikely to generate the child and family outcomes intended. Moreover, quality is a relevant feature across all levels of the ecological system. To effect sustainable and meaningful change in ecd programs in developing countries, features of access and quality, must be addressed at each level of the ecological system. The paper presents a conceptualization of quality across settings and systems and identifies implications for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers on how they can work together to measure, improve and sustain program quality. The international community, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, advocates for the provision of programs and services that will foster the early development and well-being of children and their families. In this paper, Britto, Yoshikawa, and Boller provide important clarity about early child development (ecd) programs. They note the multidimensional features of ecd (i.e., health, protection, welfare, and education), and how these features change across the early childhood years. Although these program features at times occur independently, the authors note that a holistic approach would be more advantageous. For example, designing programs that emphasize health, nutrition, and early development across early childhood years, rather than the shift from health to education at age 3, would be advantageous. Establishing "equity" as the primary theme that should guide ecd programs is an important contribution of this paper. Its importance lies in the delineation of equity as both access to ecd services and the quality of such programs. The authors note that access alone has often been the criterion guiding program development, but that access to a poor quality program is unlikely to produce the important outcomes for children and families. Britto and colleagues take the discussion of equity and particularly quality out of the local program context and up through the ecological system. This ecological systems conceptual framework is a very important contribution. While individual efforts by donor organizations, ngos, or international foundations may have impacts in individual communities, questions exist about how sustainable such efforts may be. By expanding the conceptualization of equity, access, and quality to the broader regional and national context, the authors build on the wisdom of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory and the lessons that are beginning to be learned from implementation science (Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, Friedman, & Wallace, 2005) . Three scholars commented on this paper and raised important points. Yousafzia noted the large variety of ecd programs that exist and the continuing gaps in the field's knowledge of individual program features and their fit with cultural contexts of communities and children. Biersteker, in agreement with the authors, emphasized the importance of an integrated continuum of services, which will require a new set of quality indicators. Hardin noted the potential impact of technology on the provision of quality in ecd, the inequities in access to technology in developing countries, and the potentially changing world environment regarding access. Also and importantly, she discusses the importance of including the often "excluded" members of communities in ecd programs, such as children with disabilities and their families or children from cultural or linguistic minority groups. In conclusion, Britto, Yoshikawa, and Boller challenge the field to view ecd programs in a new and broader perspective that includes but also looks beyond local program context to regional and national variables that will promote ecd equity. Their discussion of these issues is very aligned with srcd's strategic initiative addressing international issues and supports the use of developmental science in an international context. -Samuel L. Odom
doi:10.1037/e692632011-002 fatcat:ribcuvoy7jdubc4irmbxoa6dfy