CTs and Early Childhood Development

How effective are early childhood interventions in low- and middle-income countries?

Early childhood interventions have been shown to have important short- and long-term impacts in low- and middle-income countries. Results from a few examples follow.
Nutritional programs for young children have improved educational outcomes, cognitive function, and future economic success.
Hoddinott et al. 2008
A 25 year follow-up evaluation of a program providing high protein drink supplements to Guatemalan villagers found that the program increased school grades completed in females who were under 3 years old while the program existed. Both males and females had higher reading comprehension and non-verbal cognitive test scores compared to adults who had been eligible for a less nutritious supplement (Maluccio et al. 2009). The 25 year follow-up also found the program increased wages for males who had been under age 3 when they received the supplements (Hoddinott et al. 2008).
Preschool programs and early childhood centers can improve developmental outcomes in low-income settings.
World Bank 2012
Most evaluations of the impact of preschool attendance on children’s development have taken place in high-income countries, but new evidence suggests these programs can be successful in low-income settings as well. A recent randomized evaluation in Mozambique found that attendance at low cost preschools increased the likelihood that children enrolled in primary school by 24%, and children were more likely to enroll at the correct age. Preschool children spent more time on school and homework and less time working on their family’s farm. These children also benefited from improved cognitive skills, problem-solving abilities, fine-motor skills, socio-emotional, and behavioral outcomes. Nevertheless, communication and language development did not improve significantly. Preschool attendance also freed up older children, making them more likely to go to school, and caregivers were more likely to have worked in the previous month (Martinez et al. 2012). Similarly, a program in Indonesia found that sensitizing communities to the importance of early childhood education and development increased 4-6 year olds’ enrollment in early childhood centers, and enrollment improved children’s developmental outcomes (World Bank 2012).
Programs that provide information and training to parents also show potential to influence behaviors positively.
Martinez et al. 2012
The Mozambican preschool program included a parenting component that increased caregivers’ knowledge and improved parenting practices, as well as improved adults’ satisfaction with the child’s level of preparation for school (Martinez et al. 2012).

Evaluations in low-income settings show the importance of investing early in children.
Martinez et al. 2012
The Mozambican program was not able to reverse stunting already seen in children in the program (Martinez et al. 2012), suggesting that support for children at younger ages would have been important to avoid this problem in the first place. Early childhood-focused cash transfer programs have also been found to have positive impacts on young children. For more information, see CTs and ECD Outcomes.