The Standardized Early Childhood Development Costing Tool (SECT)

report cover with children in a circle playing

September 2017 – The Center for Universal Education (CUE) at Brookings Institute released The Standardized Early Childhood Development Costing Tool (SECT): A global good to improve and increase investments in young children. CUE partnered with the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund to develop and pilot the Standardized ECD Costing Tool (SECT) in countries where the Fund’s impact evaluations were being conducted. This allowed the partners to test the tool with variations by region, intervention type, and the capacity of implementing agencies and partners to gather data and conduct the costing exercise. This report reviews previous efforts to cost ECD, describes the gaps that this tool fills, explains the utility and components of the tool, summarizes the lessons and results of five pilot costing exercises, and discusses next steps to roll out the tool to users across the globe.

SECT attempts to address some of the challenges described above by providing a single tool that offers methodological consistency to costing ECD programs, which can be used across the full range of interventions, balancing flexibility and rigor. The utility of SECT is twofold. On the one hand, standardized and accurate cost data can strengthen the case for investment by enabling more precise cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis. On the other hand, such data can lead to more informed or better investments by improving the efficiency of administration, so that actual and expected expenditures are better aligned, investments are made in the most cost-effective interventions, and cost and quality trade-offs can be analyzed. SECT provides a long-needed concrete tool to help make a case for ECD investments, choose investments that are more informed, and improve efficiency in planning and budgeting.