copy the linklink copied!What is TALIS Starting Strong?

copy the linklink copied!Introduction

The OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) is an international, large-scale survey of staff and leaders in early childhood education and care (ECEC). TALIS Starting Strong uses questionnaires administered to staff and leaders to gather data. Its main goal is to generate robust international information relevant to developing and implementing policies focused on ECEC staff and leaders and their pedagogical and professional practices, with an emphasis on those aspects that promote conditions for children’s learning, development and well-being. It gives ECEC staff and leaders an opportunity to share their insights, allowing them to provide input into policy analysis and development in key areas. It is also a collaboration between participating countries, the OECD and an international research consortium. TALIS Starting Strong builds on the OECD’s 20 years of experience in conducting ECEC policy reviews in the context of the Starting Strong series, the guidance of the OECD Network on Early Childhood Education and Care and the established TALIS programme collecting data from school principals and teachers.

TALIS Starting Strong seeks to serve the goals of its three main beneficiaries: policy makers, ECEC practitioners and researchers. First, it aims to help policy makers review and develop policies that promote high-quality ECEC, for both professionals in the field and children. Second, TALIS Starting Strong aims to help staff, leaders and ECEC stakeholders to reflect upon and discuss their practice and find ways to enhance it. Third, TALIS Starting Strong builds upon past research to inform the future work of researchers.

copy the linklink copied!Which countries participate in TALIS Starting Strong?

TALIS Starting Strong 2018 includes nine countries: Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway and Turkey. All of these countries collected data from staff and leaders in pre-primary education (ISCED level 02) settings. In addition, four of the nine countries (Denmark, Germany, Israel and Norway) collected data from staff and leaders in settings serving children under age 3.

What is TALIS Starting Strong about?

TALIS Starting Strong has a cross-cutting focus on equity and diversity in addition to the 11 main areas covered by the Survey:

  • process quality (the quality of interactions between staff and children and staff and parents/guardians, as well as among children)

  • monitoring of children’s learning, development and well-being

  • background and initial preparation of staff and leaders

  • professional development for staff and leaders

  • staff and leader well-being

  • professional beliefs about children’s learning, development and well-being

  • staff self-efficacy

  • structural quality (i.e. available physical, human, and material resources), pedagogical and administrative leadership

  • climate

  • stakeholder relations.

More information on the conceptualisation of these areas is available in the Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018 Conceptual Framework (Sim et al., 2019[2]).

copy the linklink copied!What are the key features of the TALIS Starting Strong design?

The key features of the TALIS Starting Strong design are as follows:

  • Target sample size: Minimum of 180 ECEC settings per country and level of ECEC (pre-primary education and settings serving children under age 3).

  • Target response rate for staff: 75% of the sampled ECEC settings, together with a 75% response rate from staff within participating ECEC settings. An ECEC setting is considered to have participated if 50% of sampled staff within the setting responded to at least one question in the Survey.

  • Target response rate for leaders: 75% of the sampled leaders in the country.

  • Questionnaires: Separate questionnaires for staff and leaders, each requiring approximately 45 minutes to complete. In addition, a combined questionnaire was used for staff in very small centres (i.e. with only one staff member or with only one main teacher and assisting staff) that included suitable questions from both the staff questionnaire and the leader questionnaire.

  • Mode of data collection: Questionnaires were completed on paper or online.

  • Survey windows: March to May 2018 for countries participating on a Northern Hemisphere schedule and August to October 2018 for countries participating on a Southern Hemisphere schedule (with some extensions in both cases).

Further details on the sample for all target populations can be found in Annex B.

copy the linklink copied!What kinds of results does TALIS Starting Strong provide?

TALIS Starting Strong data are based exclusively on self-reports from ECEC staff and leaders and, therefore, represent their opinions, perceptions, beliefs and accounts of their activities. No data imputation from administrative data or other studies is conducted. The views of staff and leaders provide insight into how they perceive the ECEC environments in which they work and how policies in place are carried out in practice. But, as with any self-reported data, this information is subjective and may differ from data collected through other means (e.g. administrative data or observations). The same is true of leaders’ reports about ECEC centre characteristics, sources of funding and practices, which may differ from descriptions provided by administrative data at national or local government levels.

In addition, as a cross-sectional survey, TALIS Starting Strong cannot assess causality. For instance, in examining the relationship between staff education and process quality, it is possible to determine the direction (positive, negative) of the association, its strength and statistical significance. It is not possible, however, to establish whether different levels of staff education lead to different levels of process quality or whether centres with different levels of process quality attract staff with different educational profiles.

The report focuses on the quality of ECEC environments, placing children at the centre of analyses. Results from both staff and leaders are included throughout the report, to understand the different aspects of ECEC centres that matter for children’s learning, development and well-being. The analyses also aim to draw meaningful international comparisons while acknowledging the complex differences in ECEC systems across participating countries (see Annex A). Throughout the report, emphasis is put on contextualising the findings by highlighting examples of policies or practices, and also by breaking down results according to contextual variables, for instance whether centres are publicly or privately managed.

copy the linklink copied!How is this report organised?

This report presents the first results and policy recommendations emerging from TALIS Starting Strong. The chapters are organised starting with factors that are closest to child learning, development and well-being and progressing through factors that are more distant.

  • Chapter 1 gives readers an overview of the main findings and policy implications of the report.

  • Chapter 2 presents the rich information on practices used by staff with groups of children in ECEC and examines the types of interactions between staff and children and staff and parents/guardians that comprise process quality. It also discusses how activities are organised within groups, in terms of the size of the group and the number of staff available, as well as how the workforce adapts practices to support children with different backgrounds and needs.

  • Chapter 3 describes the ECEC workforce in terms of age, gender, pre-service training and participation in ongoing professional development. It also gives a profile of the working conditions staff report, including their contractual status, working hours, sources of work stress and job satisfaction. Recognising that interactions between children and staff are crucial to the quality of early childhood settings, the chapter explores how characteristics of the workforce are associated with process quality.

  • Chapter 4 examines characteristics of ECEC centres: where the centres are located; what types of centres exist; how many staff they employ; and which children they serve. It explores how centre characteristics are associated with staff qualifications and different staff practices, including support for process quality.

  • Chapter 5 presents an overview of the funding and governance structure of ECEC centres and explores centre leaders’ perceptions of effective management and sources of stress. The chapter also looks at the associations between centre governance and staff’s level of education, perceptions on spending priorities, support for professional development, process quality, and enrolment of children from different socio-economic backgrounds.

  • Annex A contains information about the ECEC systems in each of the nine participating countries, which is drawn from sources outside of TALIS Starting Strong.

  • Annex B contains information about the TALIS Starting Strong target populations, the samples and a summary of the adjudication outcomes for each sample, along with cautionary notes about interpretation of the results, when necessary.

  • Annex C contains information about complex variables derived from the staff and leader questionnaires that are analysed in the report and statistical methods used to analyse the data.

  • Annex D contains the full list of online results tables.

  • Annex E lists the members of the OECD Extended ECEC Network, managers in the TALIS Starting Strong national study centres, members of the OECD Secretariat, members of the TALIS Starting Strong International Consortium and members of TALIS Starting Strong expert groups.


[1] OECD (2019), TALIS Starting Strong 2018 Technical Report, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[2] Sim, M. et al. (2019), “Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018 Conceptual Framework”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 197, OECD, Paris,

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What is TALIS Starting Strong?