The development and widespread use of the Early Learning Measurement (ELOM) suite of tools, has allowed us access to a large, nationally representative, and continuously growing preschool child dataset in South Africa.
The ELOM 4-5 Years Assessment tool categorises children into those that are On Track for their development (i.e. meet expected development standards), Falling Behind, or Falling Far Behind for learning. The socioeconomic gradient by outcomes observed in South African pre-schoolers aged 50 to 59 months reflects persistent inequalities in children’s early experiences. Of particular concern is that the poorest children exhibit inadequate performance in crucial developmental areas that are vital for foundational learning and future academic achievement.
While reducing child poverty must remain a priority, we should simultaneously explore ways of levelling the playing field for young children entering school, even amidst poverty.
The Early Learning Positive Deviance Initiative aims to identify factors associated with exceptional ELOM 4-5 outcomes for young children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, whom we refer to as “positive deviants”.
By leveraging these factors, we can design interventions that bridge the outcome gap across the socioeconomic spectrum. Positive Deviance (PD) is based on the concept that certain individuals or groups develop unique practices or behaviours that lead to improved outcomes compared to their peers facing similar challenges.
The findings emphasise the multifaceted nature of PD in early learning programmes (ELPs). Factors associated with PD include children’s socio-emotional functioning, ELP organisational practices, pedagogical strategies, community embeddedness, strong leadership, and practitioner attentiveness. Understanding and implementing these interconnected factors has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of ELPs significantly, ultimately reducing disparities in developmental outcomes.
Download the summary of the quantitative and qualitative findings of the Early Learning Positive Deviance Initiative here.
Download the qualitative findings of the Early Learning Positive Deviance Initiative here.
Download the quantitative findings of the Early Learning Positive Deviance Initiative here.