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Measuring what matters most.
Are South Africa's young children set up for success?
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Important Note: The Thrive by Five Index (April 2022) originally reported stunting rates of 25% nationally, which used a definition of stunting that incorporated 'mild stunting'. The Thrive by Five Index stunting data has since been recalibrated to include only 'moderate stunting' and 'severe stunting', resulting in revised national stunting rates of 5.65% in children aged 50-59 months attending an Early Learning Programme in 2021. The recomputation of stunting statistics has had implications for many sections of the report. The original reports have been updated and we ask that you please use these August 2022 updated versions when quoting the Index.
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Important Note: The Thrive by Five Index (April 2022) originally reported stunting rates of 25% nationally, which used a definition of stunting that incorporated ‘mild stunting’.
The Thrive by Five Index stunting data has since been recalibrated to include only ‘moderate stunting’ and ‘severe stunting’, resulting in revised national stunting rates of 5.65% in children aged 50-59 months attending an Early Learning Programme in 2021. The recomputation of stunting statistics has had implications for many sections of the report. The original reports have been updated and we ask that you please use these August 2022 updated versions when quoting the Index.
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What percentage of 4 to 5-year-old children in Early Learning Programmes in South Africa are thriving?
Children who start school on track are more likely to stay on track and to lead healthy and productive lives.
The Thrive by Five Index is South Africa’s first nationally representative survey of preschool children. It provides authoritative data that will be used to galvanise action and drive change, to ensure that all children have the opportunity to thrive by five. The best way to shape a positive future for South Africa is to harness the full potential of every child.
We invite you to draw inspiration and insights from the data and use this to drive change wherever you have influence – your home, your place of work, your community and beyond.
The ECD Baseline Assessment 2022 report offers insights from a parallel survey conducted alongside the Thrive by Five Index data collection process in 2021. This
Based on data collected in 2021, on over 5000 children aged 50 to 59 months enrolled in Early Learning Programmes, the Thrive by Five Index
The Thrive by Five Index confirms findings from other South African studies that the amount of time a child spends at Early Learning Programmes (ELPs)
What Our Partners Say
The Thrive By Five Partnership
The Thrive by Five Index is a collaborative effort between the private, public, and non-profit sectors.
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About the Thrive by Five Index
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The 2021 Thrive by Five Index, released in April 2022, is the largest survey of preschool child development ever undertaken in South Africa. It is the first in a series that will be repeated every three years to monitor whether children attending Early Learning Programmes (ELPs) are developmentally on track for their age. Before this, there was no national data available on this critical measure of development.
The dataset is nationally and provincially representative and can be filtered by income level and sex. The Thrive by Five Index reports on how well 4-5-year-old children are doing in three key developmental domains – Early Learning, Physical Growth and Social-Emotional Functioning.
There are 1.2 million children in South Africa aged 4-5 years; 45%-55% of them are reported to attend some kind of ELP. According to the 2021 data, 5.7% of these children show signs of chronic malnutrition, and less than half are On Track in key areas of cognitive development. Of particular concern are the children in the poorest 60% of households who are Falling Far Behind the expected standard for their age.
These findings have long-term implications for South Africa’s education, health and employment outcomes. The Index will be used to motivate and inform action at multiple levels, to ensure that all children have early life experiences that set them up for success.
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The idea of measuring early childhood in South Africa was partly inspired by the Business Confidence Index. In 2018, First National Bank (FNB), Innovation Edge and the Department of Social Development began to pilot the development of the Index. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) became the Index’s lead government department in 2019, following the President’s announcement that the DBE would take on responsiblity for early learning.
Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, data was eventually gathered in late 2021, and the inaugural Thrive by Five Index launched in April 2022.
The Thrive by Five Index was initiated by FNB and Innovation Edge, in collaboration with DBE, and is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and ECD Measure. Data was collected using the locally-developed and standardised ELOM tools.
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Why Invest in Early Childhood?
Investing in early childhood is essential to creating an inclusive economy and a fair, more equal society. Here’s what research shows.
A nationally representative sample of over 5,000 children attending 1,247 diverse Early Learning Programmes (ELPs) were assessed in 2021 using the South African Early Learning Measurement (ELOM) tools. The ELOM tools are available in all 11 official South African languages and accurately measure a range of developmental outcomes in young children, taking into account diverse socio-economic backgrounds.
Details of the research methodology can be found in the Thrive By Five Index Report.
The Thrive by Five Team
The Thrive by Five Index is the product of the collective efforts of a multidisciplinary team, including experts in early childhood development, psychology, economics, data science, fieldwork management, research, communications, and child assessment. It would not have been possible without the thousands of children and hundreds of early learning practitioners who gave of their time to participate.
Sonja Giese was founding Executive Director of Innovation Edge (IE) and led the organisation and IE’s data work for eight years. She now heads up DataDrive2030.
Dr. Janeli Kotze
Dr. Janeli Kotze is a Deputy Director in the Research Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate at the Department of Basic Education.
Dr. Colin Tredoux
Colin Tredoux is Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town and a Research Associate at Université de Tolouse, Jean Jaurés.
Assoc. Prof. Andrew Dawes
Andrew Dawes is Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town and a Research Associate with the Young Lives study at Oxford University.