The cumulative effect of South Africa’s investments in early childhood development services – good health care and nutrition, parenting support, high quality early learning programmes (ELPs), and child safety and protection – can be determined by measuring the proportion of children who are developmentally ‘on track’ by the age of 5 years. No national data currently exists to track this important indicator. The South African Thrive by Five Index (formerly the SA Early Years Index) intends to address this gap. The Index will monitor trends over time in the proportion of preschool children who are on track for age in key areas of development. The aim is to use the data to strengthen collective efforts to ensure that more children receive the full suite of nurturing care and services they need to be On Track, and to support those children whose development is Falling Behind. The Index was initiated by First National Bank and Innovation Edge, in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), and supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and ECD Measure. The sample consists of a nationally representative selection of children aged 50-59 months who are enrolled in various types of ELPs. Data was collected electronically using tablet devices, in-person. For each child, the following developmental domains were assessed:
1. Early learning outcomes (measured using the ELOM 4&5 direct assessment tool),
2. Social and Emotional Functioning (measured using the ELOM Social and Emotional Functioning Rating Scales)
3. Height for Age (measured using stadiometers)
Kind of Data
Unit of Analysis
v1. Edited, anonymised data for public distribution
The sample consists of a nationally representative selection of children aged 50-59 months who are enrolled in various types of ELPs. For each child, the following developmental domains were assessed:
1. Early learning outcomes (measured using the ELOM 4&5 direct assessment tool), including:
- Gross Motor Development: This domain assesses the abilities required to control the large muscles of the body. Ideally, we would want to see children showing good control and coordination in their large movements.
- Fine Motor Coordination and Visual Motor Integration: This domain assesses the abilities required to control the small muscles of the body and to coordinate fine motor movements with visual information that is perceived by the eyes. This allows coordinated movements such as copying shapes.
- Emergent Numeracy and Mathematics: This domain assesses the ability to understand number concepts, symbols, shapes, and size.
- Cognition and Executive Functioning: This domain assesses the ability to think critically, solve problems, form concepts, attend to instructions, and control impulses.
- Emergent Literacy and Language: This domain assesses the ability to communicate effectively, use language and demonstrate listening comprehension.
2. Social and Emotional Functioning (measured using the ELOM Social and Emotional Functioning Rating Scales): This domain covers self-care, social relations with peers and adults, and emotional readiness for school.
3. Height for Age (measured using stadiometers): This domain measures whether a child is at risk of stunting. Stunting is a condition that arises from prolonged under-nutrition and it affects physical and brain development.
The child outcomes data is complemented by baseline assessments (audit) of selected Early Learning Programmes with respect to the type of early learning services provided, staff qualifications and training, resources and funding, quality of the learning environment, as well as access to government support services. Programme quality was measured using the ELOM Programme Quality Assessment Tool and interviews were conducted with principals and practitioners.
The lowest level of geographic representivity of the data is Ward-level. The data is also available at the level of Local Municipality.
Producers and sponsors
Department of Basic Education
Government of South Africa
US Agency for International Development
First National Bank Foundation
Thrive by Five Index
The Index has child outcomes data on over 5000 children sampled from 1200+ early learning programmes (ELPs) / ECD sites nationally. In the absence of a complete sampling frame for either children or ELPs, it was decided to cluster ELPs via primary schools for random sampling. In each province, 48 schools (432 nationwide) were randomly selected to be used as clusters. As many ELPs were then identified as possible within a 5-10km radius around each school, or, where this impractical because there were not enough ELPs in the vicinity of the schools, as the ward in which the school is located. The school sample in each province is stratified by socio-economic quintiles (1 to 5). Child assessments (ELOM 4&5, ELOM socio-emotional rating and height for age) were conducted with an average of 4 children at each of 3 randomly selected ELPs per cluster.
ECD Baseline Audit
Within each cluster of 3 ELPs, 1 ELP was selected to "audit". This involved interviews with the principal and a practitioner (the practitioner working with the 4 year old children), an assessment of the overall environment and infrastructure plus a 2 hour observation of the quality of the early learning programme. This data is referred to as the ECD baseline audit. The Index and Baseline data are combined in the final publicly-available version of the dataset.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Instruments used to collect data were ELOM 4&5 direct assessments of young children; ELOM Social-Emotional rating scales (interview with child’s teacher), ELOM learning programme quality assessment (classroom observation tool), CAPI Questionnaire for Principals, CAPI Questionnaire for Practitioners, and a Facility Observation Questionnaire. Stadiometers were used to measure height.
University of Cape Town
Public access data for use under a Creative Commons CC-BY (Attribution-only) License
DataDrive and Department of Basic Education. Thrive by Five Index and ECD Baseline Audit 2021 [dataset]. Version 1r. Cape Town and Pretoria: DataDrive and DBE [producers], 2021. Cape Town: DataFirst [distributor], 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25828/d0zx-6k11