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Literacy, language, politics and money: impacts on scaling up reading reform programs

Tue, April 16, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Hyatt Regency, Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront C

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


Over the past decade, as an increasing number of international student assessments (TIMMS, PIRLS, ASER, UWEZO, EGRA, EGMA) has revealed disappointing student learning outcomes, the global development community has focused its attention and resources on improving learning and educational quality. Reading has been at the core of these efforts with a focus on the critical early years of primary schooling. Decades of research has established that children best learn how to read in the early grades if taught in a language they understand and use. Numerous countries around the world have implemented local language EGR pilot programs and experimented with interventions to improve EGR teaching-learning methods and materials. As these activities have produced positive—sometimes dramatic—results in students’ reading skills, many ministries of education have committed to teaching reading in local languages, often after extended—and sometimes—heated discussion. Today, developing countries around the world are scaling up and supporting national programs that introduce students to reading using their mother tongue.
However, expanded roll-out or scale-up of mother tongue based-multi-lingual education programs is not the end of the debate. The many technical complexities of the wide-spread adoption of multi-lingual literacy programs are anticipated and routinely addressed, such as timetabling, teacher mastery of instructional techniques, materials development and assessment. Other—often unanticipated—issues arise in the political and resource arenas, involving: cultural identity, financing and delivery of scaled-up programs, resource extraction, competing donor programs, and changing ministry language priorities. In addition, reading programs take place within the national political environment and in some cases have been used as opportunities by competing political factions to create controversy by questioning government policies and programs for political gain.
This panel will bring together practitioners and ministry of education policy makers, responsible for leading EGR reforms, to provide an insider’s perspective on expanding and scaling up national early grade reading programs in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal. The panelists will describe the challenges they face, and how they are dealing with them. The panelists will provide a brief description of their national EGR program and respond to the following questions:
• What makes language so political in your country?
• What are the political, resource and other issues affecting expansion and scale-up in your country?
• What are their effects on the reading program?
• How has the program and the ministry of education dealt with these issues?
• What could have been done differently to avert or minimize these issues?
The panel will spend 60 minutes in introduction and brief presentations, followed by a 30-minute panelist interview and exchange with participant Q&A.

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