Learning Through Play and Early Childhood Education: Evidence from The Gambia

Last registered on April 13, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Learning Through Play and Early Childhood Education: Evidence from The Gambia
Initial registration date
April 10, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 13, 2023, 4:08 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

University of The Gambia

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
World Bank Group
PI Affiliation
University of The Gambia
PI Affiliation
University of The Gambia
PI Affiliation
University of La Plata

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Achieving high-quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a critical education goal in developing countries. The use of play-based learning can improve the quality of ECE. This study aims at evaluating the impact of play-based learning and ECE workforce development at the pre-primary school level on the school readiness of preschool children. The study targets children in structured public Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in The Gambia. Eligible schools will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: a treatment group that will be introduced to a new played-based curriculum and receive in-service teacher training on the new curriculum and a comparison group that will not receive any of the two packages. To evaluate the impact of the intervention, the study will collect baseline and endline data. The evaluation will cover 100 schools, while 50 of the schools will be assigned to each group. The primary outcome of interest will be children's learning outcomes as well as the ability of facilitators to use play-based pedagogies. Therefore, the study will contribute to existing but scanty literature on the impacts of play-based learning interventions in developing countries, particularly in Africa. Moreover, it will contribute to filling the knowledge gap on workforce development and early childhood development.

Registration Citation

Alzua, Maria Laura et al. 2023. "Learning Through Play and Early Childhood Education: Evidence from The Gambia." AEA RCT Registry. April 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.10996-1.0
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


The intervention includes the piloting of a new play-based curriculum in selected structured public ECDs of The Gambia. The new play-based approach will be modelled on the Teyari ECE program successfully tried in Kenya. The Tayari (which is a Swahili word meaning “ready,”) is an Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme in Kenya is a four-year ECD and Education (ECDE) intervention funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and implemented in four counties in Kenya (Nairobi, Laikipia, Siaya, and Uasin Gishu. The intervention had four components: child-centred learning; child health support; teacher training; books and teacher guides (Ngware et al., 2018). The Gambia version of this model will focus on just component the child-centred learning and teacher training component with the introduction of a play-based approach – this will be the main novelty of this intervention. Specifically, preschool children in levels 2 and 3 (ages 3 and 4 respectively) in the targeted ECDs will be introduced to a new play-based curriculum which will put more emphasis on learning through play. Additionally, early childhood educators in the treated school will be provided in-service training on the new curriculum. Both interventions will be rolled out in targeted schools only.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcomes of interest are school readiness for children and classroom performance for teachers.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Following, Attanasio et.al (2019), school readiness is measured using the International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) toolkit prepared by save the children proposed by Pisani et.al (2015). This measure of school readiness is composed of 5 domains: numeracy, literacy, fine motor skills, executive functioning, and socio-emotional skills. The school readiness score is computed by counting the average percentage of right scores over all indicators of a domain.

In terms of the capacity of the ECD workforce to use play-based approaches, the intervention will include in-service teacher training on the use of play approaches developed for the targeted schools. In order to assess the performance of ECD educators, an evaluation tool for teachers will be used. This evaluation focuses on various relevant aspects of their teaching practices. It includes indicators of pedagogical expertise in the content of the ECD curriculum; the ability of teachers to establish a safe, inclusive, and respectful play-based learning environment for a diverse population of students; and teachers’ ability to plan and deliver effective instruction and create an environment that facilitates learning through play for their students. In principle, the evaluation of teachers will follow standard teacher evaluation tools focused on three areas: planning and preparation, classroom environment and instruction.

The improvement in learning and teacher capacity is expected to improve enrolment in public ECDs. Teachers' outcomes include knowledge of ECD, hours spend in the classroom and preparing activities, and classroom practices (responding to students). We will adapt the instruments proposed by Wolf et. al (2017) to assess the capacity of the teachers. Once the performance is assessed, feedback will be given to the teachers. This shall be the mechanism through which the teacher intervention will improve teacher performance. Some secondary outcomes such as improvement of the home environment, and health outcomes, among others, will also be of interest.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
To evaluate the impact of the new curriculum on preschool children's readiness for primary education, a cluster randomized control trial approach was adopted. In particular, the targeted subjects for the evaluation are put into two groups: a treatment group that will be exposed to the intervention (will receive a new curriculum and the capacity of their facilitators will be strengthened on learning through play pedagogies) and a pure control group who will not receive the intervention. The assignment of children to each of the two arms was done using cluster randomization. They are first grouped into clusters and further stratified based on cluster size and district. Clusters will be randomly assigned to each of the two arms at equal proportions. For each cluster, a random number of the evaluation units (children and teachers or facilitators) are selected.

Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomisation of schools into treatment and control groups was done using Stata. Data on the total number of structured public ECDs and student enrolment was obtained from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE). The data were used to select centres for the evaluation and randomly assign them to control and treatment groups.
Randomization Unit
Randomization was done at the ECD centre or school level. Schools were further stratified based on districts.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
100 school will be used for the evaluation. This was determined using the power calculation.
Sample size: planned number of observations
The total number of observations for the study was determined using power calculation (see details below). Accordingly, 35 pupils per school were obtained as the sample size per school leading to a total of 3500 observations overall.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 schools treatment and 50 schools control; 35 students per school.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
For the power calculation, the study assumed an average mean of school readiness of 26.1 percent as observed in Ghana (Attanasio et.al, 2019), and assuming an ICC of 0.08, the Minimum Detectable Effect (MDE) was 8.8 percent. This MDE is approximately 0.20 (20%) of the standard deviation.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education of The Gambia IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Partnership for Economic Policy Internal IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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