An evaluation of the quality of pre-primary schooling in East Africa and its association with early primary outcomes

Document Type



Institute for Human Development


Abstract: The purpose was to evaluate two common models of pre-primary schooling in East Africa, in terms of their quality and early primary academic benefits to children. Some 117 Madrasa pre-primaries were randomly selected from Kenya, Uganda, and Zanzibar, and 100 non-Madrasa pre-primaries feeding into the same government primary schools. Their quality was observed and rated using the 50-item Measure of Early Learning Environments (MELE), developed by an internationally sponsored team of experts and intended to be relevant for low- and middle-income countries. One year later, five randomly selected graduates from each observed pre-primary (N = 974, ages 70 to 117 months) were tested on the Early Grades Reading and Math tests, and on executive function and social problem-solving measures. The Madrasa pre-primaries were found to have higher overall quality, play, language, group activities, and program structure. There was no significant difference in first grade performance between graduates from the two programs. However, quality mattered. Based on a multilevel linear regression analysis, overall quality and some domain-specific qualities were associated with math and literacy performance. An increase in overall quality of one standard deviation led to an increased math score of 7.7% in Uganda and literacy score of 10.4% in Kenya.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Presented at Society for Research in Child Development