There is emerging evidence on the effectiveness of certain interventions to improve the quality of early child development (ECD) programs and primary learning in developing countries. However, there is a need to make this knowledge accessible to practitioners like program managers and educators. ECD and primary education practitioners in the developing world often lack places from which to draw practical tools. The Early Learning Toolkit bridges this gap by serving as a hub where practitioners can find actionable tools and knowledge to support implementation and awareness of evidence-based strategies for improving quality in early childhood programs and learning at the primary level.

Practical tools

The Early Learning Toolkit, housed within Results for Development’s Center for Education Innovations, provides users with actionable information about eleven strategies to improve the quality of early childhood programs, learning in the primary grades, and program management. These strategies have been selected based on strong evidence of their effectiveness and demonstrated practitioner need. For each strategy, users can access key implementation tips, practical tools and guides, case studies of programs using the approach, and relevant research.


Early childhood strategies

The four early childhood strategies were informed by a review of key literature on early childhood program quality. More than 50 early childhood programs and organizations from around the world were surveyed to identify the needs of practitioners. A group of expert advisors also provided input on the selection and scope of these four strategies.

Learning strategies

The four learning strategies included in the toolkit have been selected based on a thorough review of recent education literature. Selected strategies are supported by evidence indicating their effectiveness in improving learning outcomes. Implementation tips were collected through interviews with program implementers as well as a review of literature. The learning strategies are informed by the following evidence:

  • Recent evaluations funded through the Hewlett Foundation's Quality Education in Developing Countries initiative
  • Systematic reviews of early learning interventions
  • Direct input from practitioners



From the earliest stages, we have incorporated feedback from practitioners to make sure the Toolkit is as relevant, useful, and user-friendly as possible. We have solicited feedback on the strategies we have selected, the types of content included, and the website itself. Is there something we missed that you would like to see here? Get in touch!


We want to hear from you

This toolkit is built on input from practitioners like you. Do you have experience implementing an approach and lessons you would like to share? Resources related to one or more of these approaches you can contribute? Thoughts on the implementation tips we have highlighted or tools we have included? Get in touch!

Explore the research on which the Early Learning Toolkit is based

The strategies highlighted in this toolkit are based on findings from these large-scale reviews and recent program evaluations.

  • Filter by
  • Evaluation & Summaries
  • Briefs
  • Case Studies
  • Evidence Reviews
  • Blog post
  • Manual, Guides & Toolkits
  • Example Content & Templates
  • Software & Visualization Tools
  • Report/Research
  • Toolkit
  • Video & Tutorials
  • Audio

Identifying Effective Education Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A meta-analysis of rigorous impact evaluations

Review of 56 studies of education programs focused on student learning in sub-Saharan Africa, examining the relative impact of 12 types of programs broken down by type of intervention (e.g., pedagogy, school supplies, school health).
Conn, K. 2014

School Resources and Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: A Review of the Literature from 1990 to 2010

Review of 43 studies of education interventions aiming to improve student learning in the developing world, with the goal of identifying school and teacher characteristics that lead to learning improvements.
Glewwe, P. et al. 2011

The Challenge of Education and Learning in the Developing World

Review of 18 randomized experiments analyzing the impact and cost-effectiveness of education programs seeking to improve access to and learning in education in developing countries.
Kremer, M., et al. 2015

Quality education for all children? What works in education in developing countries

Review of 76 studies education interventions designed to improve access to and quality of education in developing countries, discussing the evidence base for each of 11 types of interventions (e.g. scholarships, teaching improvements, infrastructure).
Krishnaratne, S. et al. 2013

Learning to Improve Learning: Lessons from Early Primary Interventions and Evaluations in India and Sub-Saharan Africa

Summary of findings from 13 education interventions funded by Hewlett Foundation's Quality Education in Developing Countries initiative, distilling three core components that are associated with improved learning.
Hewlett Foundation, 2014

Improving Learning in Primary Schools of Developing Countries: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Experiments

Review of 77 randomized experiments of education programs focused on improving learning in primary schools in developing countries. Identifies categories of interventions associated with large learning increases.
McEwan, P. 2014

Improving Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: Lessons from Rigorous Evaluations

Review of 115 impact evaluations of education programs in 33 developing countries, identifying types of interventions that result in improvements in attendance and learning.
Murnane, R. and Ganimian, A. 2014.

Interventions in developing nations for improving primary and secondary school enrolment of children: a systematic review

Review of 73 experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of education interventions in developing countries, with analysis of overall impact of the interventions on attendance and learning outcomes.
Petrosino, A. et al. 2013

What Really Works to Improve Learning in Developing Countries? An Analysis of Divergent Findings in Systematic Reviews

Review of meta-analyses reviewing the impact of education interventions of learning in developing countries, highlighting differences between the meta-analyses and common areas of agreed impact.
World Bank, 2015

How Systematic Is That Systematic Review? The Case of Improving Learning Outcomes

First of two-part series summarizing Evans' and Popova's 2015 paper, describing differences between six major education intervention meta-analyses.
Evans, D. and Popova, A.

227 studies later, what actually works to improve learning in developing countries?

Second of two-part series summarizing Evans' and Popova's 2015 paper, describing three categories of education interventions cited as improving learning outcomes in multiple reviews.
Evans, D. and Popova, A.

Teacher Community Assistance Initiative: Targeted Lessons to Improve Basic Skills

A program conducted by the Ghana Education Service providing remedial instruction to low-performing primary school students improved student skills in literacy and numeracy.
IPA, 2014

What helps children learn? Evaluation of Pratham's Read India program in Bihar & Uttarakhand

Certain formulations of Pratham's Read India program, which uses ability-level grouping to teach literacy and numeracy skills, were found to improve student learning levels.
J-PAL, 2011

Research Brief: Evaluating strategies to improve early grade reading on the Kenyan Coast

A program in Kenya strengthening literacy instruction in early primary school through teacher training and text message support was found to improve student reading skills. A buddy reading program also resulted in small improvements in student attitudes towards reading.
Health and Literacy Intervention Project, 2015

Mali Speed School Impact Evaluation: Summary Report

The Speed School program provided out-of-school children in Mali with an accelerated 9-month program to enable them to enter into primary school afterwards, the first two months of which were taught in the mother tongue before transitioning to French. An evaluation of the program found that it led to learning improvements in French and math.
IPA, 2015

Evaluation summary: the Good School Toolkit for reducing physical violence from school staff to primary school students

An evaluation of the Good School Toolkit, a set of techniques that aims to reduce school-based violence through behavior-change, found that it reduced the risk of physical violence by school staff against students by 42% in primary schools in Uganda.
Raising Voices Uganda

Evaluation Summary: Nali Kali – Curriculum Change and Early Learning Activity-based learning in Karnataka, India

An evaluation of Nali Kali, the government of Karnataka’s program in which teachers target instruction by dividing students into groups by ability, found that the program led to improvements in language skills for initially weak students in early grades.
Government of Karnataka

Evaluation Summary: The Northern Uganda Literacy Program

An evaluation of Mango Tree’s program, which seeks to improve literacy skills among students in primary grades 1-3 through using the mother tongue as the primary language of instruction, found that the program produced significant gains in literacy skills. A lower-cost version of the same program also showed significant gains, with approximately half the effect size as the full-cost program.
Mango Tree Uganda

Early Childhood Development: Delivering inter-sectoral policies, programmes and services in low-resource settings.

This document provides a synthesis of the research evidence related to early childhood development across multiple sectors, a mapping of service entry points during the early childhood developmental stage and identification of opportunities and challenges in coordinating and integrating early childhood services.
Health & Education Advice & Resource Team (HEART), 2014

Proposal for key principles of a quality framework for ECEC

This review looks at different governance arrangements of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Europe and develops a proposal for a quality framework for ECEC.
European Commission, 2014

The IEA Preprimary Study: Findings and Policy Implications

This study examines the relationships between preschool experiences of children at age 4 and cognitive outcomes and language development of children at age 7.
Bracey, G., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., & Schweinhart, L., 2007.

Measuring and Improving Quality in Early Childhood Environments

A briefing on the international consultation hosted in Leiden, the Netherlands in September 2014, which discussed issues related to measuring and improving quality in early childhood environments.
ISSA, UNICEF, Bernard van Leer Foundation, & UNESCO, 2014.

Quality in program of early childhood care and education

This paper discusses the concept of quality in early childhood care and education, as well as international influences on the way ECCE quality is defined, operationalized, and used.
Myers, R., 2006.

Quality in Early Childhood Education: an International Review and Guide for Policy Makers

This report provides a robust review of science behind early childhood development and examples of successful interventions in different contexts.
Whitebread, D., Kuvalja, M., & O'Connor, A.

Early Care and Education Quality Improvement: A Typology of Intervention Approaches

This report provides a conceptual framework of quality improvement in early care and education, as well as evidence and types of efforts in quality improvement.
Boller, K., Tarrant, K. & Schaack, D.D., 2014.

What Matters Most for Early Childhood Development: A Framework Paper

This paper provides evidence base and a framework for analyzing early childhood development policies and programs cross-nationally.
Neuman, M. & Devercelli, A., 2013.