Official project launch: “Springboard for School Readiness 2014-2015”

Increasing Kindergarten Participation:
An Early Intervention With High Economic Returns
Official Project Launch: “Springboard for School Readiness 2014-2015”

The Trust for Social Achievement, with financial support from the America for Bulgaria Foundation and in cooperation with the World Bank, will be launching its Springboard for School Readiness 2014/2015 project on June 30, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. in the Sheraton Hotel, Serdika Hall.  This project is designed to provide policy-relevant information on how best to increase kindergarten participation and promote early learning for marginalized children in Bulgaria.  In total, the project will impact 6000 children aged 3-5 from vulnerable communities.  Activities will be conducted with the support of 23 local NGO partners and with the endorsement of municipalities and kindergartens in 240 settlements throughout Bulgaria.

Bulgaria has achieved gains in kindergarten participation over the past seven years and has seen attendance grow from 73 to 83.6%, but the country’s most marginalized children, and especially the Roma, lag far behind with an estimated 40% participation rate.  Often, these are the children for whom early education could have proven most beneficial.

The World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF), in collaboration with the Poverty Action Lab and with support from the Open Society Institute- Sofia, will be conducting a randomized control trial of the Trust for Social Achievement’s project to determine what works best to promote kindergarten participation and early learning.

The project launch will coincide with a public lottery that will assign one of the following program interventions to each of the participating vulnerable communities:  free kindergarten, free kindergarten and vouchers conditional on regular attendance, or a control group.  Four of the 240 communities are pilot sites for the program.  Within the participating communities, the assigned intervention will be offered to up to 25 vulnerable children aged 3-5, who have been pre-selected.  One half of the settlements will also participate in an intervention that involves parents in a series of informational meetings, where the benefits of early education are discussed.  The aim is to test and evaluate each intervention in order to determine which is the most successful and cost-effective way to boost preschool participation and early learning.

The random program assignment will ensure that every participating settlement has an equal chance to receive a particular intervention. By comparing preschool participation and early learning across the participating communities, it will also enable the impact evaluation team to determine which method is the most successful. To ensure transparency and better understanding of the design and execution of the impact evaluation, representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Regional Inspectorates on Education, the World Bank, foreign diplomatic missions, the NGO sector, the National Association of Municipalities, and the media have been invited to observe the public lottery, which will take place in the presence of a notary.

Increasing the participation of poor and marginalized children in early education has been proven to have long-term and significant impacts on later educational and life outcomes.  According to Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman and others, there is also an economic benefit to equalizing educational opportunities, since underdeveloped human potential burdens the economy and leaves it with a workforce unprepared to compete in the global economy.  In fact, Heckman and other scholars have claimed that every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education produces a 7-10 percent per annum return on the investment.

Learn more about early childhood framework and policies in Bulgaria here: