Nova Scotia Early Development Instrument (EDI)

The early childhood period is the most critical developmental phase of human beings.
Experiences in early childhood set the trajectory for learning, behaviour, health, & well-being.
Intervening in early childhood has potential to impact developmental trajectories.

One way to support early childhood development is to understand children’s developmental growth.

We can measure children’s ability to meet age-appropriate developmental expectations with the Early Development Instrument (EDI).

What is the EDI?

The EDI is a Canadian-made, internationally recognized research tool developed by the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University. 

It is used to measure developmental health trends and changes in populations of five-year-old children.

The EDI questionnaire is completed by Primary teachers for the children in their class. 

They are filled out in February-March of the implementation year, after teachers have had the chance to get to know their students. This ensures that teachers are able to answer the questions for each student knowledgeably.

The EDI includes 104 questions and measures five important areas or domains of early child development:

Physical Health &

child is physically
independent, has
gross & fine motor
skills & good health.


child can play and
work well with other
children, willing to
try new things.


child can manage
feelings, consider
the feelings of

Language & Cognitive Development

child can listen to
stories, interested in
books, reading and

Communications Skills & General Knowledge

child understands communications,
can tell a story,
share experiences.

What does EDI tell us?

EDI shows patterns of child development – both across the province and within local communities. The domains are good predictors of youth and adult health, education and social outcomes.

The EDI does not diagnose individual children nor evaluate a teacher’s or school’s performance. EDI is a starting point to inform how we introduce policies and programs to best support child development.

The EDI:

  • Increases awareness of the importance of the early years;
  • Identifies areas of strength and weakness in children’s development;
  • Provides evidence based research to support community initiatives for healthy child development;
  • Strengthens relationships between researchers and communities; and
  • Provides communities with information to support future planning and service development.

What is vulnerability in the EDI?

Children scoring in lowest 10th percentile on an EDI domain are considered vulnerable.

  • Vulnerable children are children who without additional support will likely experience future challenges in school and society.
  • Vulnerability can’t be attributed to a single cause.
  • Healthy early development is complex, influenced by many factors and is a result of accumulative experiences in the early years.

EDI in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has three cycles of EDI results, collected in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

Lowest 10th percentile of children in the first Nova Scotia EDI in 2013 created vulnerability cut-offs. These vulnerability cut-offs were used to create the Nova Scotia Baseline to measure Nova Scotia children with Nova Scotia children over time, reflecting their reality.

At the national level, vulnerability in Canadian children has increased from 25% to 27% (reported by the Canadian Institute for Health Information based on the most recent data available from each of the provinces and territories).

The EDI results in the Nova Scotia also reflect the national trend of increased vulnerability over time.

  • Nova Scotia experienced an increase in vulnerability from 2015 to 2018 which is statistically significant.
  • The results in 2013 and 2015 indicated that 1 in 4 Nova Scotian children (25%) were vulnerable on one or more domains of the EDI.
  • By 2018, this percentage has increased to 28.8%.

Nova Scotia Early Development Instrument (EDI) Reports

Summary Report: Primary Students in Nova Scotia
— A snapshot of children’s developmental health at school entry
Summary Report: Primary Students in Nova Scotia, 2014-2015
— Aperçu de la santé développementale des enfants au début de leur cheminement scolaire