Although increasing numbers of children are enrolling in primary school in low- and middle-income countries, many enter late, fail to progress, and drop out. A child’s readiness for school is linked to school outcomes: children who enter school ready to learn are more likely to perform well and complete primary school. UNICEF supports countries as they work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals through the priorities outlined in its medium-term strategic plan. This program area identified UNICEF’s commitments to strengthening young children’s early development and readiness for starting school at the prescribed age and with appropriate competencies.
The purpose of UNICEF’s program Getting Ready for School: A Child-to-Child Approach (2007-2013) was to facilitate the successful transition of young children into primary school through the use of older schoolchildren (Young Facilitators) as providers of early childhood education support to younger children in their communities. Program goals included improved school readiness and on-time enrolment among young children as well as increased family, community, and teacher support for young children’s learning. Pilot programs were implemented in six countries during the 2008-2009 school year: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, and Yemen.
UNICEF selected the American Institutes for Research to provide them with an independent assessment of whether and to what extent the program increased school readiness, on-time enrollment, and (in four of the countries) persistence and achievement through grade one. The findings were intended to identify program strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and best practices to guide future implementation and expansion of this program.
The Getting Ready for School pilot program enjoyed a highly successful pilot implementation in participating countries. The program was extremely well received by stakeholders and achieved key goals. Continued development and expansion of the program, combined with efforts to secure sustainability, made Getting Ready for School a valuable resource for countries and communities who sought to increase better educational opportunities for their young children.