United States of America: Consultancy: Consultant to develop methodological paper on the measurement of learning in young children – D & A, DRP – NYHQ, Requisition# 506392

Organization: UN Children’s Fund
Country: United States of America
Closing date: 19 Aug 2017

If you are a committed, creative professional and are passionate about making a lasting difference for children, the world’s leading children’s rights organization would like to hear from you.

For 70 years, UNICEF has been working on the ground in 190 countries and territories to promote children’s survival, protection and development. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Background & Rationale

Early childhood, which spans the period up to 8 years of age, is critical for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. During these years, a child’s newly developing brain is highly plastic and responsive to change as evidenced by the billions of integrated neural circuits that are established through the interaction of genetics, environment and experience. Early childhood development (ECD) is multidimensional and sets the stage for life-long thriving. In addition, it is one of the most critical and cost-effective investments a country can make and economic analyses have found that investing in the early years of a child’s life yields some of the highest rates of return to families, societies and countries.

In order to capture information on key domains of early childhood development, UNICEF developed, within the context of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) programme and with inputs from a broad group of experts, a set of specific questions to gather data on the overall developmental status of children. Beginning with the fourth round of MICS (MICS4, primarily implemented between 2009 and 2012), an index was added to the existing early childhood development module to measure overall developmental status of children within the domains of physical, literacy-numeracy, social-emotional and learning (the Early Childhood Development Index or ECDI) and to monitor children’s achievement of universal developmental milestones across countries. Prior to the collection of the ECDI in MICS, there was no internationally comparable data on the overall developmental status of children. To date, comparable data on children’s developmental status, collected using the ECDI, have been produced for more than 60 low- and middle-income countries.

The importance of ECD as a necessary and central component of global and national development has been recognized by the international community through the inclusion of a dedicated target within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Target 4.2 (under Goal 4) specifically calls upon countries to ‘Ensure that, by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.’ Ensuring that all children are given fair and equal opportunities to reach their full potential is also linked to achieving progress on other goals since investing in ECD can also improve educational achievement later in life and increase skills, capabilities and productivity in adulthood.

One of the indicators selected to measure progress towards achieving target 4.2 is: the percentage of children under age 5 years who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being (indicator 4.2.1). Currently, this indicator has been classified as tier III meaning that the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators has decided that methodologies/standards for measurement do not currently exist for the indicator and need to be developed and tested. As custodian agency of indicator 4.2.1, UNICEF is therefore responsible for undertaking methodological work to develop, test and validate a survey module that can be used to collect internationally comparable, nationally representative and statistically sound data to monitor and track progress towards achieving target 4.2.

With the new monitoring needs set by the SDG agenda in mind, and recognizing the growth in the field of ECD measurement as well as the importance of continued methodological work to improve the quality and relevance of available data, UNICEF is undertaking methodological work towards development of a new ECD measure, building on the existing ECDI, that would be aligned with the definition and monitoring requirements set forth by SDG 4.2.1.


The Data and Analytics section of UNICEF NYHQ is seeking the support of a senior level consultant to prepare a background paper about child development within the learning domain, and options for direct assessment tools and measures of early learning based on proxy respondents that can be incorporated into household surveys. The paper will serve to inform the development of the new ECDI measure but also contribute more broadly to ongoing discussions about monitoring of SDG target 4.2. Similar background papers on the health and psychosocial well-being domains also included in the SDG indicator formulation for 4.2.1 are also being developed.

Scope of Work

The paper will have two main components.

First, the consultant is expected to review the available literature on key constructs and/or milestones related to children’s early development in the learning domain (e.g., receptive and expressive language development, executive functioning, working memory, early literacy/numeracy, approaches to learning/playing etc.) and summarize this in a written background paper. The paper should include a thorough overview of constructs/milestones related to learning and the links to early childhood development, with a particular focus on children under age five years. [1]

Second, the paper will need to include an overview of existing measures/tools to assess early learning (this might include national learning assessments, where available and relevant, or early learning scales for children in preschool). This overview should cover different types of measures, including reports offered by parents based on observation of the child (as the current ECDI) as well as behavioral measures where interviewers interact with the children and record their responses[2]. The summary of each tool should include basic information such as target population, content/design, administration, validity and reliability testing, adaptation etc. as well as a thorough assessment of the strengths and potential limitations of each assessment, keeping in mind the goal of identifying assessments that can be implemented/adapted for use as part of household surveys.

The final output must reflect comments provided by UNICEF during the review process. Comments will also be provided by selected external reviewers on the intermediate and final deliverables. The final paper is expected to be at least 30 pages long, excluding references and annexes.


Start date: 11 September 2017

End date: 31 October 2017



(Estimated # of Days)


Detailed outline

2 days

14 September 2017

First draft of background paper on learning domain

10 days

13 October 2017

Final draft of background paper on learning domain, incorporating comments received during review process

8 days

31 October 2017

Duty Station



No travel is planned at the moment. If the consultant is requested to travel, expenses related to the trip will be paid for by UNICEF according to its rules and regulations.


UNICEF will retain all copyrights of any materials produced by the consultant under this assignment.


Payment will be made upon the satisfactory and timely submission and approval of the deliverables and not actual number of days worked. The consultant is not entitled to payment of overtime.All remunerations must be within the specified agreement. Failure to finalize the paper within the agreed deadlines will result in cancellation of the present agreement.

Health Insurance

The consultant will be required to sign the “Health Statement for Individual Contractor” prior to taking up the assignment, and to document that he/she has appropriate health insurance.

Key competences, technical background, and experience required

  • An advanced university degree (Master’s) in developmental psychology, education or other social science field is required. A Doctorate Degree (PhD) in the same fields is considered an asset.
  • A minimum of 10 years of relevant professional work experience in research, with a focus on relevant areas of children’s early learning development, is required.
  • Knowledge and familiarity of existing literature on child development and learning is required.
  • Knowledge and familiarity of quantitative measures of learning is required.
  • Knowledge and familiarity of international household survey programmes like MICS and DHS is required.
  • Previous experience in developing data collection and measurement tools on early learning for use in surveys is highly desirable.
  • Evidence of previous publication in academic journals is required.
  • Excellent command of English is required.
  • Analytical, methodical and precise style of writing.
  • Demonstrated communication skills, both written and oral.
  • Ability to work under tight deadlines.
  • [1] A recent report published by UNESCO about the Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes (MELQO) project includes a useful overview of domains, relevant constructs and summary of available assessment items for executive functioning, early math skills and early literacy skills. See: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002480/248053e.pdf

    [2] If ready, one resource can be the UIS Catalogue of Learning Assessments 2.0.

    To view our competency framework, please click here.

    Please indicate your ability, availability and daily/monthly rate (in US$) to undertake the terms of reference above (including travel and daily subsistence allowance, if applicable). Applications submitted without a daily/monthly rate will not be considered.

    UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages qualified female and male candidates from all national, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of our organisation.

    How to apply:

    UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages qualified female and male candidates from all national, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of our organization. To apply, click on the following link http://www.unicef.org/about/employ/?job=506392

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