Improving Access and Quality of Early Childhood Education
The inclusion of a specific SDG on education and a target for early childhood development represent global agreement on the importance of education to achieve sustainable development, and early child education as a key driver: education leads to greater income, better health outcomes, more gender equality, improved agriculture, and an improved environment.
The Ivorian government’s commitment to education is demonstrated through contributing 4% of its GDP to education, the highest in the West Africa sub-region. While this has led to positive outcomes in school enrollment, Cote d’Ivoire like many other developing countries, continues to face challenges to inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. These challenges include siloed or sectoral education policy, wide disparities in access in rural versus urban areas, high drop-out rates, low learning outcomes, low early childhood development programs, and quality of education.
Given the government’s cross-cutting policy priorities in the coming years and limited room to increase the current education investment, opportunities to leverage cross-sectoral synergies and improve efficient investment allocation is very important if Cote d’Ivoire is to make significant progress on SDG 4. To support development of an integrated education policy framework in the national development plan, Millennium Institute partnered with the Ministry of Planning and Development, and the Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC) program of the Jacobs Foundation to conduct a systemic analysis of the impacts of education and early childhood development investments on the SDGs and the economic and social indicators in Cote d’Ivoire.
We developed three groupings of interventions: (1) conditional cash transfers and pre-primary education, (2) maternal and child health programmes, and (3) quality of education. These groups of interventions were analyzed individually and in combination to identify synergies. Using these groups of interventions to orient the analyses, three categories of scenarios were developed: (1) the Base scenario, which assumes current levels of investment do not change; (2) Moderate scenarios, which assume additional investments in the groups of interventions are made; and (3) Strong scenarios, which assume investments double the moderate scenario. The impact of these scenarios on reducing the societal gender gap was also analyzed.
Key Policy Insights and Recommendations
Maternal and child health programmes are the least costly and contribute the strongest effects on health indicators and on the SDG. Even though conditional cash transfers could improve pre-primary enrollment, its effects on overall nutritional indicators are weaker than expected. This is due to the low coverage rate and high costs, however the effect on the population covered by the policy is significant. Overall, having pre-primary education increases the likelihood of success in primary and secondary studies, and because of this, increases the potential average years of schooling.
Interventions improving the quality of education, by expanding infrastructure (through the installation of latrines and increasing access to electricity), improving the training of teachers (by increasing the proportion of teachers with a university degree and their job stability), and reducing the student-teacher ratios all contribute to reducing the dropout rate and an increase in the proportion of the population who finish primary and secondary schooling. These interventions produce economic spillovers that increase over time and are critical in achieving socioeconomic goals including the reduction of the gender gap in education and in the labor force. The effects of the policies related to the quality of education amplify the improvements already found in the health and conditional cash transfer scenarios. These interventions can also develop distribution structures for the operationalization of other social programmes such as health, vaccination or nutrition programmes.
The simulation of the Base scenario indicates that the investment levels of today are not sufficient for SDG achievement. The interventions analyzed give an overview of the possibilities to accelerate progress towards the SDGs. This shows that a brighter future is possible for coming generations; creating a “snowball effect” that bears fruit over the long term.