A new way to measure child functioning

In recognizing the need for a set of questions that would produce internationally comparable data on children, the Washington Group formed a subgroup in 2009 that is chaired by the National Statistical Office of Italy (ISTAT). UNICEF joined the subgroup in 2011.

The first main activity of the subgroup was the development of a short set of questions to reflect current thinking on child functioning for inclusion in censuses and surveys. The new module uses the ICF-CY as the conceptual framework and relies on a functional approach to measuring disability.

The Washington Group/UNICEF Module on Child Functioning, finalized in 2016, covers children between 2 and 17 years of age and assesses functional difficulties in different domains including hearing, vision, communication/comprehension, learning, mobility and emotions. To better reflect the degree of functional difficulty, each area is assessed against a rating scale. The purpose is to identify the subpopulation of children who are at greater risk than other children of the same age or who are experiencing limited participation in an unaccommodating environment. The set of questions is intended for use in national household surveys and censuses.

The module has undergone extensive review by experts, and testing in several countries to determine the quality of questions being asked and ascertain cultural understanding by respondents.  It has been incorporated into the most recent round of MICS and is being implemented in some countries as part of MICS6. In March 2017, a joint statement issued by multiple UN agencies, member states, organizations of persons with disabilities, and other stakeholders recommended the module as the appropriate tool for SDG data disaggregation for children. The module is being translated into multiple languages and, in addition to English, is available in French, Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese and Khmer (access all currently available languages here).

Supporting documentation, including a concept note, tabulation plan and narrative, syntax, templates for reporting, guidelines for interviewers and training materials are also available.