In response to the growing need to improve learning outcomes, USAID's 2011 Education Strategy focused on improving the teaching and learning of reading in early grades. Its goal of 100 million children showing improved reading skills testified to USAID’s commitment to investing in and measuring improvements in learning outcomes. As a result, USAID education programs with a focus on early grade reading have become the norm, with such programs implemented in approximately 20 countries during the five years since the adoption of the education strategy. In the last couple of years, the lessons of successful pilots are being applied on increasing scale in numerous countries. Taking successful pilot projects to scale and helping education systems implement their national reading strategies at scale have therefore become the primary challenges faced by USAID and other supporters of educational improvement in the developing world.
The challenges of realizing large-scale impact, and of seeing that impact sustained, are not new to development. However, they are being approached with renewed interest and attention in the education sector. This paper examines seven countries where interventions to improve early grade reading are being taken to scale - some with project support, some through government initiative. Management Systems International's framework for taking projects to scale, and the framework defined in the Brookings Institute's Millions Learning report are used to examine how scale has been and is occurring in these selected countries.