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Preschool attendance, schooling, and cognitive skills in East Africa


  • Bietenbeck, Jan
  • Ericsson, Sanna
  • Wamalwa, Fredrick M.


We study the effects of preschool attendance on children’s schooling and cognitive skills in Kenya and Tanzania. We use a within-household estimator and data from nationally representative surveys of school-age children’s literacy and numeracy skills, which include retrospective information on preschool attendance. In both countries, school entry rules are not strictly enforced, and children who attend preschool often start primary school late. At ages 7–9, these children have thus attended fewer school grades than their same-aged peers without pre-primary education. However, they catch up over time: at ages 13–16, children who went to preschool have attended about the same number of school grades and score about 0.10 standard deviations higher on standardized tests in both countries. They are also 3 (5) percentage points more likely to achieve basic literacy and numeracy in Kenya (Tanzania).

Suggested Citation

  • Bietenbeck, Jan & Ericsson, Sanna & Wamalwa, Fredrick M., 2019. "Preschool attendance, schooling, and cognitive skills in East Africa," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:73:y:2019:i:c:s027277571830596x
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2019.101909

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    More about this item


    Preschool; Education; Cognitive skills; Sub-Saharan Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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