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Scaling up early grade reading interventions in Uganda

Thu, April 18, 11:45am to 1:15pm, Hyatt Regency, Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront D

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


In response to poor reading scores among its primary school learners, the Uganda Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) has been working with partners since 2012 on a concerted effort to improve early grade reading (EGR) in its primary schools. This effort began in earnest with the inception of the USAID-Uganda School Health and Reading Program (SHRP), implemented by RTI International, which worked with the MoES to develop and distribute early grade reading instructional materials in 12 local languages and English and trained all grades 1-4 teachers in selected districts on the EGR methodology. The effort was subsequently expanded two years later with the addition of a second USAID-funded project, the Literacy Achievement and Retention Activity (LARA), also implemented by RTI International. Building on the successes of the two USAID-funded EGR projects, the MoES was able to successfully receive additional funding from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to implement a third project of similar size, the Uganda Teacher and School Effectiveness Project (UTSEP), implemented directly by the MoES themselves. As a result, the EGR interventions now reach all districts that speak the 12 program local languages covering more than 80% of the nation’s districts and schools with a number of other local and international organizations contributing to the effort.

There are a number of key, core concepts that are widely accepted and implemented in EGR interventions in many different nations. These include a reading instruction methodology that is based on the “5 key components of reading” and an implementation approach that addresses the “5 ‘T’s of reading interventions”. These approaches have been largely developed and improved upon through small scale and pilot projects in various countries. Many of these small scale efforts have demonstrated that a concerted effort based on these core concepts can result in measurable increases in early grade reading scores over a relatively short period of time. But as many nations have begun to scale up these efforts they often have not enjoyed the same level of increases in reading scores and change has generally been slower and more difficult. This panel will share how the Uganda government with its partners have experienced and addressed these challenges as they have worked to scale up the intervention across the nation.

This panel will share presentations from Uganda government officials and development partners which are collaboratively engaged in the efforts to improve and assess EGR in Uganda’s primary schools. Panel participants will discuss the process of gradually scaling up program activities to reach the majority of the nation’s schools by working with and through government structures. The Uganda MoES which has led the process from the begin will discuss how it has worked with donors and other development partners to mobilize resources and technical assistance by incorporating EGR in the ministry’s overall strategic plans. The Uganda National Examinations Board and the Uwezo Uganda initiative will discuss how they have been able to scale up assessment of Ugandan children’s reading skills through government ownership and civil society engagement in conducting early grade reading assessments. The GPE, SHRP, and LARA projects will share how they have worked through government structures at both the national and district levels to develop instructional materials in 12 local languages plus English and improve EGR instruction and learning in schools in a sustainable way. The panel will illustrate that attaining measurable improvements in reading scores at scale takes considerably more time and effort than smaller scale and pilot programs because interventions at scale require working through government structures and personnel, requiring systems strengthening and capacity building while also implementing program activities. This requires enormous effort and constant collaboration among government and development partners with sustainability as the ultimate objective.

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