Scaling Up Early Childhood Development and Education in a Devolved Setting: Policy Making, Resource Allocations, and Impacts of the Tayari School Readiness Program in Kenya



International and Comparative Education, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Education, Early Childhood Development and Education, education policy, ededucation decentralization, education governance


Early childhood development and education (ECDE) is devolved in Kenya, which means that each of Kenya’s 47 counties budgets for and implements ECDE independently. Kenya provides two years of preprimary education to children ages four and five. Given scarce resources, constructing facilities and hiring teachers are often principal considerations for county governments. The present study investigated whether and how counties go beyond the basic provision of facilities and teachers to invest in learning materials, expand teacher professional development, and hire coaches to improve the quality of teaching. These results are presented in the context of the Tayari ECDE program, which was designed to improve school readiness in a cost-effective way. We present qualitative findings from several counties to describe how government bodies invest in additional elements of preprimary quality improvement. We also compare results across counties that do and do not implement the Tayari model to understand whether implementation of an effective program to increase ECDE quality encourages adjustments in government resource allocations. In addition, we present quantitative results from a large-scale longitudinal treatment and control study of the Tayari model, which tested the effectiveness of curriculum-aligned instructional materials and teacher training and support in improving learners’ school readiness in public and low-cost private learning centers. Finally, we present policy implications for decentralized government structures responsible for providing ECDE, noting how these can be supported and incentivized to increase investments in ECDE quality.

Author Biographies

Benjamin Piper, RTI International

Dr. Benjamin Piper is the Senior Director for Africa
Education at RTI International. Based in Nairobi, Dr. Piper
provides technical support to programs in sub-Saharan
Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He supervises Kenya’s
national literacy program, the Tusome Early Grade Reading
Activity, funded by USAID, and Kenya’s Tayari ECDE
program, sponsored by the Children’s Investment Fund
Foundation. Dr. Piper previously led Tusome, the (PRIMR)
Initiative, the National Tablet Programme, and the PRIMR
Rural Expansion Programme. He has worked with RTI, the
World Bank, DFID, UNICEF, and Save the Children. Dr.
Piper has a doctorate in International Education from the
Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Katherine A Merseth, RTI International

Katherine A. Merseth leads the International Development Group’s practice in Early Childhood Development (ECD) at RTI International. She builds institutional partnerships, designs programs, and sets the long-term strategic vision for RTI’s work in the field of international early childhood development, particularly early education.

RTI strives to improve children’s developmental outcomes and early learning in low- and middle-income countries through assessment, longitudinal research, technical support for preschool teaching and learning, and national-level policy dialogue to increase access to high-quality early childhood programs.

Ms. Merseth joined RTI in 2015. She has worked for several international development organizations, including Save the Children US, Creative Associates International, and Winrock International. As deputy chief of party for the USAID-funded Education Reform Support Program in Jordan, she managed initiatives on early childhood education, monitoring and evaluation, and youth employability. She serves as co-chair of the Basic Education Coalition ECD Working Group and the Comparative International Education Society ECD Special Interest Group. She received a Master’s degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Education in 2008.

Samuel Ngaruiya, RTI International

Dr. Samuel Ngaruiya provides policy, management, and
technical guidance to the Tayari Early Childhood
Development program, based in Nairobi. An expert in early
childhood development and early grade education, he holds
a PhD in Education from the University of Nairobi and a
Master’s degree in Child and Youth Care from the University
of Victoria in Canada. Through 18 years of direct experience
implementing programs supported by various international
organizations, and his membership in the Africa ECD
Network and Working Group on ECD, he stays closely
attuned to global trends and strategic priorities in ECD.