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Raquel Bernal Publications

Publish Date
Journal of Political Economy

Globally, preschool enrollment has surged, but its quality is often poor. We evaluate strategies to improve quality of public preschools in Colombia. The first, designed by the government and rolled out nationwide, provided extra funding, mainly earmarked for hiring teaching assistants. The second also offered low-cost training for existing teachers. The first intervention had no effect on child development, while the second improved children’s cognitive development, especially for more disadvantaged children. This pattern can be explained by the interventions affecting teachers' behavior differently. The first led teachers to reduce their classroom time, including learning activities, while additional training offset the adverse effect on learning activities and improved teaching quality.


Colombia’s national early childhood strategy launched in 2011 aimed at improving the quality of childcare services offered to socio-economically vulnerable children, and included the possibility that children and their childcare providers could transfer from non-parental family daycare units to large childcare centers in urban areas. This study seeks to understand whether the offer to transfer and the actual transfer from one program to the other had an impact on child cognitive and socioemotional development, and nutrition, using a cluster-randomized control trial with a sample of 2767 children between the ages of 6 and 60 months located in 14 cities in Colombia. The results indicate a negative effect of this initiative on cognitive development, a positive effect on nutrition, and no statistically significant effect of the intervention on socioemotional development. We also explored the extent to which these impacts might be explained by differences in the quality of both services during the transition, and report that quality indicators are low in both programs but are significantly worse in centers compared to community nurseries.