The Program

Research shows that young children, particularly those living in conditions of poverty, who participate in high quality ECD programs experience significant cognitive and linguistic gains as compared with peers who do not participate in such programs. In 2015, approximately 40% of children living in conditions of poverty participated in ECD programs in Colombia. The government’s goal is to double this number by 2018. In response, aeioTU works to expand access to high quality ECD programs for children in Colombia. aeioTU works through 3 primary strategies: direct service implementation, technical assistance, and advocacy. In 2015, aeioTU operated 28 ECD centers serving 13,315 children directly, and trained and supported 315 centers that operate with the funding of Colombia’s welfare institute (ICBF); these centers reach a total of 53,000 children. In 2016, aeioTU will train and support 600 centers in the northern coast of Colombia. Specific components and results of aeioTU’s model include:

  • Construction or refurbishment of ECD centers: The physical space in which children engage in their daily activities is an essential component of aeioTU’s quality.
  • Center-based ECD services: aeioTU operates 29 ECD centers throughout 13 cities of Colombia. In Bogotá 2 centers serve higher-income families. The proceeds from these centers are invested in the remaining centers, which target low-income children and their families.
  • Home visiting: Trained teachers conduct bi-weekly home visits to children under age 5 and their families, and also facilitate group meetings among the parents and children, which provide an opportunity to reinforce messages from home visits and share experiences among parents. 
  • Curriculum development: aeioTU has developed an innovative curriculum, based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy, to guide the daily interactions between teachers and children (for both their ECD centers and for their home visiting program), which integrates nutrition, education, and care into the aeioTU Educational Experience.
  • Technical assistance: Through a formal partnership with Colombia’s Welfare Institute (ICBF) and the Intersectorial Committee lead by the Presidency of Colombia, aeioTU trains and assesses teachers in their pedagogical approaches. 
  • Monitoring of child progress: aeioTU developed and implements a software to track individual children’s development and progress over time across developmental domains.
  • Advocacy: aeioTU is part of the alliance, Primero lo Primero, in support of Colombia’s young children, with the objective of increasing coverage and quality of ECD services.
  • Results: According to aeioTU´s Longitudinal Study, developed by NIEER Institute of Rutgers University and Universidad de los Andes, children who attend aeioTU have improved language and cognitive development by 60% overall; girls and boys whose mothers finished high school, improve by 90% . Families of children who participate in aeioTU, use positive discipline, play more with their children, and trust their neighbors much more.
 
Challenges

aeioTU faces challenges in implementing their program at scale:

  • Ensuring dedicated budgetary support for each aspect of the model in order to guarantee quality.
  • Ensuring adequate human capital: Role and capacities of educators and families in children´s development.
 
Success Factors

A few key factors related to program success include a culture of evidence-based decision-making and continuous improvement across the organization. Some examples are: 

  • Conducting a randomized controlled trial longitudinal study to evaluate the curriculum
  • Developing and implementing a software program to follow children´s development
  • Establishing a monthly quality committee to follow indicators and make decisions  
  • Promoting an innovation culture
  • Obtaining ISO 9001 certification