The Early Learning Programme Outcomes (ELPO) Study

The Early Learning Programme Outcomes Study was the first South African study to examine the relative effectiveness of different programmes that aim to improve the early learning outcomes of young children from low-income backgrounds.

Using a quasi-experimental baseline (pre-programme) and end-line (post-programme) design, two centre programme development models, a mobile and a site-based playgroup programme, were compared. A third playgroup model was included in the descriptive analyses only. All selected programmes were rated as well functioning by their organisations.

369 children were assessed using the ELOM 4 & 5 Years Direct Assessment and the Social-Emotional Rating scale at baseline (March 2018) and end-line (October 2018). 327 primary caregivers were interviewed using the ELOM Home Learning Environment Tool to obtain data on resources in the home, type and frequency of early learning activities caregivers engage in with their child and time available to spend with children in the week and at the weekend. Data on ECD practitioner experience and education, practitioner to child ratios and practitioner satisfaction with resources and support were also collected.

Multilevel modelling demonstrated significant differences between programs in ELOM score improvement over eight months participation (F = 6.48; p = .01); Fisher LSD Post Hoc pairwise comparisons indicated that three session playgroups produced significantly greater gains than two and one session models (p< .01). ELOM Total scores at baseline, and the quality of children’s interactions with adults and peers, predicted growth in ELOM Total scores by endline. Baseline age, height-for-age, child-practitioner ratio, and caregiver time for activities with their children, predicted growth in certain ELOM domains at endline.

A significant spin-off from this study is that several of the programmes included have adapted their implementation, based on the child outcome scores and other factors, such as dosage (i.e. how often or how long children attend programmes), nutrition and home stimulation shown to affect them.

Links to documents:

The ELPO Summary Report is available here

Please complete this form to request a copy of the full Technical Report. 

Research findings published in the Journal Early Education and Development

The open access dataset for this study is available here.

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