Early childhood education attendance and school readiness in low- and middle-income countries: the moderating role of family socioeconomic status

Author(s): Sosu, Edward M.; Pimenta, Sofia M.

Date: 2023

Pages: p. 410-423

Serie: Early Childhood Research Quarterly

Series Volume: 63 (2023)


This study examined associations between attendance at early childhood education (ECE) programs and school readiness, and the extent to which the ECE–school readiness association is moderated by family socioeconomic status (SES). Data were from 58 low- and middle-income countries (N = 165,875, Mage = 47.52 months). Multilevel analysis showed that ECE attendance was positively associated with total and domain-specific school readiness, in addition to the role of family SES. The association was of medium effect size for literacy–numeracy readiness and small effect size for learning and socioemotional readiness. The ECE–school readiness association was moderated by family SES, although this varied by school readiness domains. While the ECE–literacy–numeracy association was stronger for high SES children (i.e., leveraging effect), the ECE–learning readiness association was stronger for lower SES peers (i.e., compensatory effect). No SES differences were observed for socioemotional competency (i.e., additive effect). Our findings suggest that although ECE attendance plays a significant role in developing school readiness competencies in LMIC contexts, it is strongly geared towards cognitive outcomes and therefore requiring a focus on other developmental domains. Additionally, for ECE to help close the SES gap in children’s school readiness and subsequent learning outcomes, policy makers must pay attention to increasing both the quantity and quality ECE of provision for children from low SES backgrounds.

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