New project seeks to lift early grade literacy in Afghanistan


June 9, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new project in Afghanistan to enable first, second and third graders to read and comprehend at their academic level will start this summer, Creative Associates International announced.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the five-year Afghan Children Read program will work with educational officials to develop early grade reading curriculum and materials, train teachers and monitor results, among related activities. Afghan Children Read will focus on improving the Ministry of Education’s early grade reading systems and its ability to lead the program.

“Reading and comprehension are the essential building blocks of a child’s education,” says Eileen St. George, Ph.D., Director of Creative’s Education in Conflict practice area. “This is a smart investment for the U.S. and Afghan governments since students who can perform at grade level typically stay in school, are better learners and eventually lead more productive lives.”

It will pilot the project in Herat and Nangarhar provinces, as well as selected districts in Kabul province. The goal is to build the technical capacity and systems of the Ministry of Education to implement an early grade reading program elsewhere.

Nonetheless, education reform is a challenge in most countries, and even more so in conflict areas like Afghanistan, St. George explains.

Engaging federal, provincial and district officials, along with educators, from the beginning is a critical element of the new program, she says. Working groups within the Ministry of Education will lead the process, with technical support by Creative and its implementing partners.

Among the activities, these groups will review existing early grade reading materials and policies. In addition, they will develop standards and benchmarks for student and teacher performance, conduct operational research and assess early grade reading.

To build the skills of teachers, Afghan Children Read will apply a capacity building cycle, which is an applied practice process that includes training, guided practice, on-the-job application, continuous classroom assessment and more.

The Afghan Children Read program will also generate teacher guides, student workbooks, age-appropriate storybooks and more. It will also produce coaching and mentoring materials, as well as in-school support activities.

Parent & community engagement

In addition to the government’s involvement, Afghan Children Read will also focus on engaging parents and community leaders in support of their children’s early grade education.

“Creative has found that when families and their larger communities participate in education, these projects are more successful and often continue after our involvement ends,” says St. George. “For us, Afghan Children Read is about ownership by the government, teachers, communities and parents.”

Experienced partners

Afghan Children Read will be implemented by the Ministry of Education, with technical support from global and local partners.

Creative began working with the Afghan Ministry of Education in 2002 and in 2007 designed the District Teacher Training Teams model and In-Service Training, which the government continues to use today.

With more than 10 years of experience leading a range of USAID-funded programs in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Education, Creative will provide overall technical leadership and operational management for the program.

The International Rescue Committee ( has more than 30 years of experience implementing education programs in conflict-affected countries—including 15 years in Afghanistan. Along with Creative, the International Rescue Committee is implementing in Pakistan a gender-equitable, socially inclusive and conflict-sensitive national project for early grade reading that will provide best practices for Afghanistan.

Afghan Holding Group ( will build upon its experience with the Ministry of Education to support policy development, reform and strengthening of the ministry and will leverage its extensive research and evaluation networks to support monitoring and evaluation and operational research to inform policy and planning efforts. Afghan Holding Group employs more than 180 full-time, highly qualified Afghans, as well as a pool of 800 consultants across all 34 provinces.

Equal Access (, with more than 10 years of experience working in Afghanistan, will introduce communications and technology to raise awareness around the new early grade reading model.

SIL LEAD (, a leading global linguistic organization that has worked in Afghanistan for more than five years, will support language mapping to inform policy and planning, curriculum and materials development, teacher training and language technology innovations. It has experience working in Dari, Pashto and six other local languages.

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