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cartoon rendering of group of childrenThe International Early Learning Study (IELS) is an international play-based assessment of five-year-olds' knowledge and skills in four key areas: emerging numeracy, emerging literacy, self-regulation, and social emotional skills. IELS aims to provide U.S. educators, policy makers, and parents the opportunity to better understand the skills and competencies of American children at the beginning of primary school and how they compare to the skill profiles of 5-year-olds in other countries. This innovative new study fills important gaps in the international comparisons of education systems and helps countries to better understand how their early education and care systems prepare children for primary school.

Cartoon boy standingIELS is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries, and is conducted in the United States by NCES. The U.S. and several other countries participated in a Field Test for IELS in the fall of 2017 and are conducting the IELS Main Study in the fall of 2018.

IELS includes:

  • Play-based direct assessment: children complete game-like activities on a tablet designed to measure children’s early literacy, early numeracy, self-regulation and social emotional (empathy) skills;
  • Parent questionnaire: parents provide an indirect assessment of children’s early cognitive, behavioral, and social emotional skills, family demographic information, information on the home learning environment and the child’s early childhood education and care history; and
  • Teacher questionnaire: teachers also provide an indirect assessment of children’s early cognitive, behavioral, and social emotional skills for each study child in their class.

More detailed descriptions of the above study components can be found on the Study Components page. For other information of questions, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

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