New project to boost literacy for 15 million Ethiopian children


January 31, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  Building on a successful partnership to improve reading achievement, the Government of Ethiopia and the U.S. Agency for International Development have launched a new initiative to raise the reading proficiency of 15 million children.

The five-year READ II project, funded by USAID, will boost the quality of literacy instruction and student support, reaching out to children at risk of failure and dropout caused by cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence, and displacement.

READ II seeks to better equip teachers with effective early grade reading instruction techniques and materials in seven mother-tongue languages and English, while simultaneously building a culture of reading in the school, home and community.

The project is implemented by Creative Associates International, along with its core partners Education Development Center and World Vision. The program will collaborate closely with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, a critical partner for the program’s success, says Leland Kruvant, President and CEO of Creative.

“To create lasting success in improving literacy instruction, we have to work within the systems and make them even stronger. Our Ministry partners are key,” he says.

Despite gains in enrollment and improvements in education quality in recent years, 2016 USAID early grade reading assessments showed that 34 percent of Ethiopian students in grade 2 were unable to read a single word of a grade-level story, while 48 percent could not answer one comprehension question.

By addressing these gaps in early grade reading education, the project is also working to chart a positive future for the country’s development.

“Mastering the fundamentals of early grade reading provides a foundation for success for the rest of school and life,” says Karen Tietjen, Director of Instruction Systems and Governance at Creative. “By focusing on these early grades, we aspire to create lifelong learners who will contribute to their family, community and country.”

The project will initially roll out its enhanced model in 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately expanding a basic model to reach the targeted 15 million learners.

A holistic, evidence-based approach

The READ II project will work to improve support and delivery systems for early grade reading at every level.

To meet the needs of all learners, including girls and vulnerable students, the project will enable teachers, communities, and parents to support the whole child through differentiated instruction; a safe, friendly school environment; sufficient materials; and activities to improve learning, engagement, and wellbeing.

While pre- and in-service teachers will be the target of an enhanced early grade reading instructional package – including support for teaching techniques and classroom management – the project will also create support systems at the school and district level to provide teachers with critical ongoing coaching, monitoring and learning opportunities.

The project will also engage the community and parents to build a culture of reading both in school, in the community and at home, working with youth volunteers to lead extra-curricular reading activities.

To ensure that students’ access to education and learning is not interrupted during times of crisis, the project seeks to establish a systemic approach to identify and rapidly respond to student and household needs.

To monitor progress, the project will support the schools and districts to establish ongoing technology-based data collection and analysis so that education officials and administrators can quickly identify challenges and take action to meet the needs of teachers and learners.

Ministry leadership for long-term success

With an eye toward sustainability and scaling up the approach nationally, the Ministry of Education will play the lead role in the project’s roll-out.

Creative and its partners will work as one team with the Ministry across six regional offices and Addis Ababa, to ensure that program interventions are embedded in Ministry systems. The project will support the Ministry to develop and implement a reading-supportive policy and framework grounded in best practices.

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