In the village of Rotepeque in Santa Barbara, Honduras, lives José. José is a five-year old who, in February 2013, began attending kindergarten. He goes to class very happy because he spends time playing. The decision of the family to enroll him was not easy. They wonder if it was important for him to play in kindergarten when he could be playing at home and, on the other hand, they were affraid for him walking in the mountain for more than 30 minutes.
His village had decided to open the preschool (formally a Community Center Preschool or CCEPREB), and the family, as good members of their community, decided to participate despite their doubts. No formal preschool services exist in the village, so the CCEPREB was his only chance.
The CCEPREBs are an alternative of quick implementation to provide preschool education. They are based on a methodology called Play and Learn, developed by FEREMA Foundation (www.ferema.org). In the model, trainers and coaches with no formal teaching qualifications provide a guided methodology and lead the implementation of carefully planned activities for every day of the school year. The CCEPREBs work in a space offered by the community. In Jose’s case, the center works in an unused classroom of the school of the village (this was possible because now there are fewer teaching positions at the school than before and classroom spaces have become available). The model has achieved great popularity and has expanded preschool enrollment in Honduras. But, the question of the family remains and, this time, at the macro level: Are the CCEPREBS making a difference?
Facing this question, the Bank in coordination with the Ministry of Education decided to implement an evaluation , that worked with a pseudo control group composed of the students who began the school year. A discontinuity created by the first grade entry requierements and the fast pace of skill improvements were factors that facilitated the evaluation. Figure A shows the cognitive aspects results for both pre and post-intervention.
A total of 100 CCEPREB were selected under the IDB’s support for evaluation, interviewing a total of approximately 1,000 children. The instrument chosen for the evaluation was PRIDI‘s Engle Scale, which identifies eight dimensions of early childhood development. Evaluations were performed at the beginning and end of 2013.
Figure B presents the results of the evaluation of the different dimensions of child development plus the cognitive aspect. To facilitate the comparison, the figure includes the expected progress over a year. It is worth to highlight that the benefits from the intervention seem similar to the progress that students could make in the six dimensions within a year without participating in the program. This means that, within a year, children progressed the equivalent of two years without a preschool.
The evaluation results confirm that Jose´s family made a good decision enrolling him in the CCEPREB: Jose will enter first grade better prepared.
In 2014, we visited again Jose to analyze how he compares with other children of his village who did not attend the CCEPREB and the results are very good. But, more importantly, we visited his community to tell them Jose’s story and show them that children can really learn through play.
 The implementation of an experimental evaluation was affected by the difficulty on finding rural communities that met the minimum enrollment requirements required by the rules of the SE (8 students of 5 years old per class) to perform a randomization of the intervention.