USAID/Washington, via the All Children Reading (ACR)—Asia task order, commissioned RTI International to conduct research on whether lower and middle-income countries in Asia should invest in early grade reading. To do so, we consider the relationship between increased literacy and employment and social outcomes. We also investigate evolving job opportunities in developing Asian economies, their literacy requirements, and the relationship of Asian growth to the US economy. We then examine data on the current literacy levels among school-going and young-adult populations in Asian countries to see if they meet the needs revealed by job market trends in Asia.
The analyses presented in this report show conclusively that it continues to be important for lower and middle income countries in Asia to invest in improving the teaching and learning of literacy skills in early grades. Emphasis should be placed not only on foundational skills, but also on applied skills, such as reading for comprehension across subject areas and applying information gleaned through reading various types of text to understand and solve increasingly complex problems. Education systems therefore must address the full continuum of reading skills development, beginning in the early years and throughout primary school.