Examining the secondary effects of mother-tongue literacy instruction in Kenya: Impacts on student learning in English, Kiswahili, and mathematics

Limited rigorous evidence is available from sub-Saharan Africa regarding whether children who learn to read in their mother tongue will have higher learning outcomes in other subjects. A randomised controlled trial of mother-tongue literacy instruction, the Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) Initiative, was implemented in Kenya from 2013 to 2014. We compared the impacts of the PRIMR mother-tongue treatment group in two languages with those of another group that did not use mother tongue, but utilised the same instructional components. Results showed that assignment to the mother-tongue group had no additional benefits for English or Kiswahili learning outcomes beyond the non-mother-tongue group, and that the mother-tongue group had somewhat lower mathematics outcomes. Classroom observational analysis showed that assignment to the mother-tongue group had only small impacts on the usage of mother tongue in other subjects. Advocates for mother-tongue programmes must consider such results alongside local implementation resistance in programme design.

Cambodia Teacher Professional Development Policy Brief Options

Cambodia’s teacher professional development (PD) system is at a crossroads. There is a growing realization that the lower than expected learning outcomes in Cambodia are directly related to lower than desirable classroom teaching. To respond to this reality, Cambodia aims to put in place improved systems for pre-service teacher preparation (moving to a 12+4 system and introducing a new Bachelor of Arts in Education (BA [Ed.]) degree, intensive upgrading of existing teachers, and continuous professional development and mentoring. A working group organized by the Teacher Training Department is bringing together stakeholders to assist in the design and implementation of an improved in-service training (INSET) system. The present document aims to bring together pertinent information and evidence on effective continuous professional development (CPD) to support the work of this group.

Longitudinal Midterm Report for the Tayari Early Childhood Development and Education Programme

Midterm evaluation of longitudinal study conducted through the Tayari Early Childhood Development and Education Programme. Tayari is an intervention implemented by the Kenyan Ministry of Education and four counties, with technical support from RTI International and funding from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). Tayari is focused on designing, piloting and testing the cost effectiveness of investments to increase school readiness for children in Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) centres in Uasin Gishu, Siaya, Laikipia and Nairobi counties.

Tayari’s Longitudinal Evaluation Midline Results

Presentation delivered at CIES 2017 (Atlanta). The Tayari intervention’s randomized controlled trial design is structured to allow for causal inference of Tayari’s impact on school readiness. Previous research has shown how similar ECD programs have affected learning outcomes, but the literature remains silent on how individual children’s skills transition over time. The Tayari longitudinal research design allows us to estimate growth trajectories of individual children. This is particularly salient as the literature lacks models for how literacy and numeracy skills interact with the executive functioning and socioemotional skills that Tayari investigates interact with each other over time. The Tayari longitudinal study follows more than 3100 learners across three rounds of data collection and a wider range of sills than is available in the Tayari impact evaluation. Given how little is known about how children’s core ECD skills grow, the Tayari longitudinal intervention estimates first how the skills grow in the normal control condition, and then how the Tayari program affects growth rates and relationships between learning elements. Finally, the Tayari longitudinal study will continue to develop an understanding of how children transition skills between the two levels of pre-primary in Kenya to the primary education sector where the Tusome literacy program is being implemented at national scale.

Theory based evaluation in Kenya: Using research to inform national scale implementation

Presentation delivered at CIES 2017 (Atlanta).

International education is a broken field: Can ubuntu education bring solutions?

Article published in the International Review of Education. February 2016, Volume 62, Issue 1, pp 101–111. Published abstract: "Ubuntu is an African philosophy of human kindness; applying it in the Global South would fundamentally alter the design of the education sector. This essay argues, however, that the field of international educational development is not, in fact, structured to support an education influenced by ubuntu ideals. Specifically, the educational development milieu includes donors, implementers and academicians who do not sufficiently question the power dynamics which underpin education development. This creates a field where the power imbalances between donors and host governments are not interrogated, where development workers place too much faith in their own knowledge rather than that of local education experts, and where development practitioners rarely appreciate the privilege of working in countries which are not their own. An ubuntu education would alter the educational development field in myriad critical ways, a few of which are suggested in this essay. Educational development programmes in universities and intake programmes for implementers and donors should teach officers humility, appreciating existing local talent and expertise. Donor programmes should incentivise reflective practice which formally embeds appreciation for local culture and expertise, thereby supporting structures which help educational development experts to review their metacognitive processes. The field should also dramatically increase the numbers of local, minority and female educational development practitioners and provide more avenues for advancement for those groups. These are activities which are critical to supporting the education development field, but require a fundamental change of attitude by practitioners to ensure the right kind of relationships between the West and the Global South."

What Have We Learned? Improving Development Policy through Impact Evaluation (Presentation)

From the CGD Website on the event: "Please join the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to take stock of the evidence and impact evaluation movement and its promise for improving social policy in developing countries. In 2006, CGD released a working group report titled “When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation.” It described an evaluation gap and proposed an international effort to systematically build evidence on “what works” in development with the aim of improving the effectiveness of social programs. Ten years later, we will reflect on progress toward these goals. Despite a host of challenges, hundreds of millions of people across the world have benefited from programs that have been rigorously evaluated and scaled up. Impact evaluation has generated knowledge about poverty and public policy leading to better programs. At the event, policymakers and evaluators will discuss examples of how evaluation has helped enhance effectiveness, and a panel of evaluation funders will reflect on lessons learned and the way forward. In a time of political transition, we seek to re-energize the movement for increased evidence and value for money in public and aid spending. Among others, the event will feature: Abhijit Banerjee (MIT), Amanda Glassman (CGD), Rachel Glennerster (J-PAL), Markus Goldstein (World Bank), Amber Gove (RTI International), Rema Hanna (Harvard), Emannuel Jimenez (3ie), Michael Kremer (Harvard), Darius Mogaka (Government of Kenya), Santhosh Mathew (Government of India), William Savedoff (CGD), and Bambang Widianto (Government of Indonesia)." Download the presentation slides from the Kenya case study using the "Download" link, or click on the external website link for more information on the event.

Classroom-up policy change: Early reading and math assessments at work

This article reviews the development of the EGRA and EGMA, which are locally tailored, timely assessments designed to directly inform policy and instruction for learning improvement, particularly for countries on the lower end of the income spectrum. The history of the design and implementation of the tools as well as case studies of their use in Egypt and Kenya, are a useful counterbalance to the experience of the more traditional international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) documented in this special issue—in particular for understanding the needs of countries struggling to transform ‘education for all’ into ‘learning for all’.

Pro-poor PRIMR: Improving early literacy skills for children from low- income families in Kenya

Article published in Africa Education Review, Volume 12, 2015 - Issue 1. Published Abstract: Children from low-income families are at risk of learning outcome difficulties, particularly in literacy. Various studies link poor literacy results with performance later in primary and secondary school, and suggest that poverty, literacy skills and weak instructional methods combine to drastically limit the educational opportunities for many poor children. The Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) Initiative was designed to support the learning gains of Class 1 and 2 pupils in seven counties across Kenya. PRIMR uses a randomised controlled trial design to establish the effect of its intervention and employs basic literacy measures to estimate causal effects. This study shows that PRIMR has been effective for children from low-income families and that early literacy interventions can mitigate socio-economic effects. The findings suggest that efforts to improve literacy outcomes for the poor should begin early in primary school. Strategies for ensuring that instruction is equitable across socio-economic status are advocated.

Improving procedural and conceptual mathematics outcomes: evidence from a randomised controlled trial in Kenya

Article published in the Journal of Development Effectiveness, Volume 8, 2016 - Issue 3. Published Abstract: To improve learning outcomes, an intervention in Kenya called the Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) Initiative provided pupil learning materials, teachers’ guides and modest teacher professional development in mathematics. This paper presents the causal impact of PRIMR’s mathematics intervention on pupil achievement indices for procedural and conceptual numeracy, using a differences-in-differences analytic strategy. The mathematics intervention produced modest, statistically significant results: generally similar results for males and females, a larger impact in grade 2 than grade 1, a larger impact in nongovernment schools than public schools, and smaller outcomes in mathematics than for English or Kiswahili. These findings have relevant policy implications in Kenya given an impending national mathematics programme.

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