Estimating the Impacts of Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Berbera, Somaliland


Research shows positive impacts of early childhood education (ECE) on both short- and long-term cognitive and educational development outcomes. Yet it’s unclear to what extent existing work can be extrapolated to the Horn of Africa where there are limited opportunities for young children to access pre-primary education. In 2022, Pharo Foundation launched the first-ever ECE program in the city of Berbera, located along the nation’s northern coast, with the goal of promoting healthy development and strong learning foundations in pre-primary children. The program, which runs for approximately six days per week for six months each year, also includes: on-site teacher training; provision of teaching materials and learning resources; and daily nutritional snacks.


To inform policymakers on the costs and benefits of a potential, nationwide ECE program, we designed a study to estimate the impacts of the Berbera ECE program, held at Cumar Binu Khadab, on a range of short-term childrens’ development and family outcomes. To isolate a causal effect, the school introduced a lottery-based admission system (nT = 85; nC = 80) and carried out both baseline and endline surveys to track child- and family-level outcomes. To our knowledge, this was the first-ever randomized evaluation of an intensive education intervention in Somaliland (as well as in Somalia). To measure early learning and development outcomes, we utilized the International Development Educational Learning Assessment (IDELA) tool, which captures four dimensions of development: (1) emergent numeracy; (2) emergent literacy; (3) social-emotional development; and motor development.


We estimate a large and statistically significant impact of the Berbera ECE program on IDELA measures. Relative to the comparison group, enrolled children demonstrated a 15 p.p. increase in average scores (equivalent to a standard deviation), with the largest gains occurring along the emergent literacy dimension. Although this effect is derived from a small sample in a single school (in its first year of operation), its magnitude is larger than those documented in much of the education research literature. We expect to release a detailed summary of findings in 2024.