International Early Learning Study

What are the skill profiles and early learning experiences of children at the beginning of primary school in different countries? To answer this question, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) designed the International Early Learning Study (IELS), a play-based assessment administered on a digital tablet to measure 5-year-olds’ emergent numeracy, emergent literacy, self-regulation, and social emotional skills. Teachers and parents also completed online surveys that provided contextual information on the 5-year-olds’ skills, development, home environment, and experience with early childhood education and care.

IELS was coordinated by the OECD and conducted in the United States by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Not only did the 2018 IELS pilot study provide insight into what 5-year-olds in the United States can do relative to their similarly aged peers in Estonia and England, but it also demonstrated that tablets can be successfully used to assess young children in a variety of competencies. The 2023 IELS, which will be expanded to additional countries, will build on the findings of the 2018 IELS pilot.

AIR supported NCES in determining what aspects of development were important to assess among 5-year-olds and the item trial, refining and reviewing the survey instruments, collecting data (in partnership with Westat), and determining how best to report the preliminary findings. AIR attended international meetings and provided early childhood expertise to NCES during the scoping phase of the study as well as helped adapt the field test and main study instruments to ensure these materials were appropriate for a U.S. context while maintaining uniformity across countries.