Early Childhood Index ensures that learners develop and thrive by the age of 5

The Thrive by Five Index, South Africa’s first Index to track early childhood outcomes, will be launched in April 2022. It measures the proportion of children aged 50 to 59 months, or 4 to 5-year-olds, across all nine provinces who are developmentally on track for their age in key areas of development. The launch coincides with the migration of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) function from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the DBE from 1 April 2022.

“ECD is an essential building block for a quality primary and secondary education system. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important. Children who thrive by five are more likely to start school on track and ready to learn. The reason why the Thrive by Five Index tracks not only learning milestones, but also physical and social-emotional development is because the developmental domains of young children are interdependent. Physical stunting affects a child’s ability to learn due to its impact on the developing brain. Similarly, social-emotional development impacts brain development, as well as critical learning skills such as collaboration. Data collection for the Thrive by Five Index will be repeated every three years to enable Government to track trends over time. The data will be used to support collective efforts to ensure that all young children in South Africa receive the nurturing care and services they need to thrive,” explained Dr Janeli Kotze from the DBE’s Research Coordination Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate.

The data will help the DBE to prioritise practitioner development to inform the implementation of the 0-4 curriculum, along with the development and distribution of relevant learning resources. This will also ensure that registration and monitoring policies and processes can be better aligned to the necessary conditions and adequately funded for improved child outcomes. In addition, the data collected will identify strategic opportunities for public-private partnerships and ensure that Government and non-Government funders are allocating resources to the types of interventions that are most likely to lead to improved child outcomes. The data will also inform enhancements to monitoring systems to ensure that the DBE is tracking indicators relevant to quality programming to offer insights into the kinds of bridging programmes required as children enter Grade R. These may include social and emotional preparation, or domain specific interventions.

During the 2022 Basic Education Sector Lekgotla, Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga, stressed the importance of strengthening the early learning foundation as early grade reading outcomes in literacy and numeracy are not achieved. “I agree that we need to pay attention to funding and human capital to take Early Childhood Development to the next level,” she said.

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