What is TALIS Starting Strong?

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 develop 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 for 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.

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.

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 and assessment 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[1]).

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 on line.

  • 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 A.

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 of the first volume (OECD, 2019[2]). 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.

This report analyses and discusses policy areas that ensure a stable high-quality workforce in the sector.

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

  • Chapter 2 builds on rich information about initial preparation programmes and recent professional development activities to investigate the breadth and alignment of ECEC staff’s education and training, alongside their engagement in collaborative professional practices. The chapter also explores the associations between the training trajectories of staff, their sense of self-efficacy and their practices with children. It concludes with a discussion of how staff training profiles vary across centres serving more and less diverse groups of children.

  • Chapter 3 starts by presenting an analytical framework to analyse ECEC staff working conditions and well-being through TALIS Starting Strong. It then describes the main aspects of these working conditions, the various dimensions of well-being included in the survey, and how they vary across and within countries. The chapter also analyses the main determinants of the sources of stress before investigating the relationships between staff’s well-being and their practices with children and parents, as well as motivation to stay in the profession. It concludes with an equity perspective on staff working conditions across ECEC centres with different characteristics.

  • Chapter 4 seeks to understand what leadership looks like in ECEC centres across a diversity of settings and contexts, looking at the responsibilities, functions and structures of centre leadership. Following an analysis of associations between leadership and other outcomes, such as staff’s professional growth, satisfaction and well-being, the chapter examines leadership development and leaders’ working conditions. It concludes with an equity perspective on leaders’ engagement in their different functions.

  • Annex A 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 B 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 C contains the full list of online results tables.

  • Annex D 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.


[2] OECD (2019), Providing Quality Early Childhood Education and Care: Results from the Starting Strong Survey 2018, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/301005d1-en.

[1] Sim, M. et al. (2019), “Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018 conceptual framework”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 197, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/106b1c42-en.

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