How to Develop High-Quality Pre-Primary Programs
Pre-primary education is one component of early childhood development (ECD). Generally serving children from the ages of 3 to 6 years, high-quality pre-primary education supports young children’s development of skills, attitudes and behaviors necessary to succeed in their future educational careers. This includes pre-literacy and pre-numeracy, social and emotional, and physical skills. Pre-primary education can not only better prepare students for entry into primary school, but also reduces dropout rates and grade repetition, benefiting the students and improving the efficiency of the education system.
To support the development and implementation of high-quality pre-primary programming, USAID has created a new resource to systematically plan for new or adapted programming. The How-To Note: Developing High-Quality Pre-Primary Programs guides USAID staff or other education program planners through necessary considerations when integrating pre-primary programs into educational plans.
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What Makes a High-Quality Pre-Primary Program?
High-quality, pre-primary programs are centered around developmentally appropriate practices. Serving children between 3 and 6 years of age, such programs should use play-based pedagogy. This allows children to develop their cognitive (emergent literacy and emergent numeracy), social and emotional, and physical skills and approaches to learning. Programs should utilize principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), allowing children multiple means of engagement, inclusive representation, and varied ways to demonstrate learning. Further, a holistic approach should be taken when planning for pre-primary programming, with links to other sectors such as nutrition, health, and safety.
USAID Education How To Note: Developing High Quality Pre-Primary Programs
USAID has created a new resource to support the development and implementation of high-quality pre-primary programs. Aimed to support Mission staff, the How To Note guides education planners throughout the planning process.
The How To Note provides guidance to:
- Systematically examine the pre-primary landscape, from policy and systems-level considerations to on-the-ground reality;
- Identify relevant stakeholders in each context to ensure USAID activities align with existing initiatives and programs;
- Analyze opportunities for USAID to engage in the pre-primary sector and determine what types of activities would offer the most value; and
- Define the components of a high-quality pre-primary provision to inform the design of activities and/or integration of pre-primary elements into activities with a broader scope.
Key Components of Pre-Primary Programming
Throughout the How-To Note, key components of pre-primary programming are identified, with guidance for evaluating critical questions and next steps. Each chapter addresses one particular aspect, culminating in key steps, recommendations, and resources aligned with the USAID program cycle.
- Political Will, Investment, and Leadership
- Is there a policy that specifically addresses pre-primary in National Development Strategies or Education Sector Plans?
- Regulating, Monitoring, and Supporting Programs
- Is there a regulatory framework in place that articulates how pre-primary service provision is provided, regulated, and monitored?
- Are the most marginalized and vulnerable children accessing pre-primary?
- What are the key barriers to access for those groups not accessing pre-primary?
- Program Quality
- Are there structural and process quality standards in place?
- Do programs use a developmentally appropriate, inclusive curriculum?
- Teacher Workforce
- Do teachers receive training and continuous professional development opportunities that are specific to pre-primary and emphasize developmentally appropriate practice?
- Family and Community Engagement
- Are parents, caregivers, and community members actively engaged with the program in a variety of ways?
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for the next era in education programming, pre-primary education needs to be at the forefront of planning and implementation. Its benefits for the students, education systems, and economies are numerous and particularly critical for populations that are marginalized and vulnerable. This is an opportunity for education stakeholders to address inequities that have defined pre-primary and early childhood education in the past, leveraging these lessons learned to design and implement equitable, accessible, and high-quality pre-primary programs.