Technical center to sustain Yemen’s literacy advances

By Munazza Siddiqui

September 9, 2014

Sana’a, Yemen—In a country where illiteracy hovers around 35 percent, one program has had remarkable success by tackling the problem in early grade levels.

Witnessing the positive results and eager to sustain them, Yemen’s Ministry of Education has established a technical coordination center to oversee the program’s implementation and expansion of literacy skills to students nationwide.

Housed in and managed by the Ministry of Education, the technical coordination center is a critical step to ensuring the sustainability of the Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative Associates International.

In May 2013, after only four months of the program in 311 schools, first grade students in schools using the Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach had jumped from knowing the sounds of only five letters to knowing the sounds of 18 letters, according to findings in the report “Improved Reading Performances in Yemeni Schools: Impact Assessment Report of the Yemeni Early Grade Reading Approach Phase 1: 2012-2013.”

From 2013 to 2014, Creative’s approach grew to 822 schools in 10 governorates and reached approximately 230,000 students in grades one to three. The technical center will play a key role in expanding the program nation-wide to 23 governorates, which will require training new cadres of Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach technical specialists, trainers, teachers and program coordinators on the effective methodology used in the approach

“It is good to have this center for planning and coordination on early grade reading activities,” says Mohammad Al-Hammadi, a training coordinator with Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach. “It will helps us consolidate our efforts and collaborate closely with the MOE in the national scale-up of the program.”

Ministry of Education staff and education partners at the technical center are already at work preparing the logistics and training materials to instruct a new cohort of trainers, who will in turn train future teachers on the innovative reading pedagogy later this month.

An experienced “trainer of trainers” and well-versed in the Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach, Amt Al-Saboor is optimistic about the center’s benefits.

“The center will help us plan more effectively for different trainings,” says Al-Saboor.  “We will be able to interact with the trainers and discuss our issues. Moreover, it will improve our coordination on YEGRA.”

As part of their planning for the center’s future and the sustained achievement of the literacy program, the Ministry of Education, technical center staff and Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach coordinators are looking to the region for strategies, lessons learned and best practices on nation-wide scaling up of new subject curricula and approaches.

This will include making use of information learned in 2013 when the Community Livelihoods Project supported a tour by Yemen Ministry of Education officials to Egypt to learn about a new literacy program roll out there.

Drawing on regional best practices to fighting illiteracy, the ministry’s new center will ensure that long after the official Community Livelihoods Project draws to a close, thousands of Yemeni students will continue to learn to read and become educated and productive citizens in their communities.

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