Why take part?
There are a number of important policy questions concerning early education for which there is currently no comparable international data, despite the immense interest in all countries in the issues. There is no equivalent system to the OECD's PISA assessments or the TIMSS and PIRLS assessments carried out by the IEA, for children starting school. iPIPS is intended to fill that gap. In terms of direct relevance to policy makers, assessments conducted at both the start of school and at the end of the first year will help to inform four areas of policy:
Pre-school policy - The children's assessment will be accompanied by a questionnaire survey of parents/carers to capture information on the kind of pre-school experience children have had and for how long, whether formal pre-school or informal childcare, full time, part time or none at all. Questions will also be asked about interactions at home and key features of children's development. Together, this information will help to ascertain the impact of different forms of pre-school provision and experience on children's development, in a comparative international context, so that national and regional authorities are better informed in their decisions about how (and how much) to invest in their pre-school provision and what types of provision are most effective internationally.
School starting age policy - Different administrations have different policies on the age at which children start formal schooling and at what point their attendance becomes full time. Although much has been written about the age of starting school, it has not been possible to draw conclusive results. By comparing the results of the 'on-entry' with the 'one year on' assessments, against similar data from administrations with different starting age policies, it will be possible to make more informed judgements about the effectiveness of different policies.
Curriculum and pedagogical policies - School providers will be asked about their approaches to education during the first year at school. The results of this survey when linked to other data which are being collected, will highlight, at the jurisdiction and global level, the relative success in terms of the progress which different groups of children make, of different policies concerning the curriculum taught and the pedagogical process. At a more detailed level, the survey results can also be used to identify schools or school districts, or types of approach within a system, which appear to be working more effectively than others and thus, help support school improvement.
As a baseline for later surveys - Currently, the extent to which countries' differential performance on international surveys such as PIRLS, TIMSS and PISA is due to differences in children's starting points is not known. This study would help to contextualise the data from those projects. It is clearly important for all systems to have this information in order to gauge more accurately the impact of schooling so as to inform policy making.