Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes (MELQO) Formative Evaluation Report
The effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of the Measuring Early Learning and Outcomes (MELQO) project – Phase 1
Background to the MELQO Project
The Measuring Early Learning and Outcomes (MELQO) project was initiated in early 2014, triggered by the need for more systematic data collection on children’s development and learning at the start of primary schooling in low-middle income countries, for key indicators of early learning that could be tracked globally1 and the urgency of improving the quality of early learning environments around the world.
In its first phase, the project set out to design and trial ECE/ECD tools that are: 1) technically rigorous; 2) operationally feasible and 3) have the political and institutional support of governments and development agencies. Shaped by existing regional and international ECE/ECD instruments, the tools would ideally demonstrate clear and compelling links to empirical research or practice. The ultimate goal however was “…to produce data that can be useful for improving learning environments by way of national policies, teacher support, and parent information. In addition, the project hopes to create global and national pressure for ECD and increase country level advocacy for ECD” (desk study). In support of this work, the MELQO project has built on the convening and outreach efforts of the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF) and recommendations of the World Health Organization. It has also drawn on inter-agency work undertaken within the framework of the “Readiness to Learn” Assessment Project (RLAP). The project currently benefits from the collective leadership of the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Early Learning Partnership (ELP) at the World Bank, the United National Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) and the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution.
General objectives of the formative evaluation of Phase 1
In early September 2015, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), MELQO’s majority funder, commissioned a formative evaluation of Phase 1. As agreed during the inception phase, the evaluation was expected to meet the following general objectives.
- Examine and challenge the Theory of Change for developing large-scale ECD measurement tools and data-driven ECD policies and services in low-middle income countries;
- Assess the relevance and effectiveness of approaches and processes employed by the MELQO Consortium for the technical/operational design and field testing of the tools, as well as the parallel institutional goals;
- Look at the extent to which Phase 1 has been able to build financial sustainability, partnership arrangements and country ownership of the tools;
- Draw from lessons in Phase 1 to highlight potential steps forward for target setting, strategy development, coordination and governance and communications in the next phase.
CIFF and the MELQO governance structures placed a strong emphasis on the need for an independent, non-biased, external evaluation and balance in the focus and interpretation of findings. With recognition that the project plan had been set against very high expectations, and that the validation of the tools was still on-going, the evaluation would be mainly formative in nature – meaning it would draw on feedback from a broad cross section of MELQO Consortium stakeholders (and beyond) to answer as unequivocally as possible: What works? What lessons can be learned from successes and challenges, procedures and evidence in Phase 1? What improvements, changes or additions could be beneficial for the next phase of implementation?