Strengthening institutional capacity to produce learning at scale: Case studies from Jordan, Malawi, Nepal, and Uganda

Case studies of RTI's work on strengthening institutional capacity in Nepal, Jordan, Malawi, and Uganda focusing on three core functions: (1) setting and communicating expectations; (2) monitoring against expectations; (3) providing targeted support to struggling schools.

System Supports for Effective Large-Scale Reading Interventions (Learning at Scale)

Learning outcomes are low and instruction is poor in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These shortcomings are particularly concerning given the substantial learning loss due to COVID-19 from which many systems are suffering. The Learning at Scale study identified eight of the most effective large-scale education programs in LMICs and now is examining what factors contribute to successful improvements in learning outcomes at scale (see list of programs on last page of this brief). These programs were selected based on their demonstrated gains in reading outcomes at-scale, from either midline or endline impact evaluations. The study addresses three overarching research questions, focused on understanding (1) the components of instructional practices (Brief 1), (2) instructional supports (Brief 2), and (3) system supports (Brief 3) that lead to effective instruction. This brief focuses specifically on system supports. It addresses the following research question: What system supports are required to deliver effective training and support to teachers and to promote effective classroom practices?

Journey to Self-Reliance: Case Study of Early Grade Reading Assessments in the Philippines

Over the course of four years (ending in 2016), the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Philippines grew increasingly self-sufficient at managing all aspects of early grade reading assessments (EGRAs). As DepEd’s capacity developed over time, the role of the technical assistance provided through the Education Data for Decision Making project (EdData II) shifted, diminished, and then disappeared altogether. International development professionals sometimes cite the cliché, “If we were truly successful, we would be working ourselves out of a job.” That sentiment now informs USAID’s goal to help each country on a journey to self-reliance. The EdData II project’s work in the Philippines provides some examples of what such a journey might include.

Journey to Self-Reliance: Case Study of Capacity Development in Cambodia

What conditions make it possible to accomplish significant capacity development without running any workshops, without requiring any explicit project deliverables, and with only three short-term technical assistance trips over the course of 19 months? The All Children Reading–Cambodia Activity has been supporting the Education Quality Assurance Department (EQAD) of the education ministry in Cambodia since February 2017. An EQAD staffer, asked about the assistance, said, “The value of the support …is more than I can express… Through collaboration with [the project], EQAD has developed remarkably.” This case study examines how a different approach to providing technical assistance helped EQAD make those “remarkable” strides toward self-reliance.

Increasing and Optimizing Time for Classroom Instruction in Early Grade Reading and Writing in Modern Standard Arabic

Since 2014, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE) has worked closely with USAID to advance educational initiatives. The results from two major early grade-reading assessments and a study conducted to measure the amount of classroom time allocated to foundational reading instruction indicate the critical need to increase and optimize the amount of instructional time during the school day. This policy brief documents the research process and findings which have led to the recommendation to increase and optimize instruction time allocated for MSA instruction.

Cambodia, Student Performance in Early Literacy: Baseline Report

This report presents the results of a baseline assessment of upper preschool and grade 1 student performance in pre-literacy and early grade reading. The assessment included samples drawn from three provinces in Cambodia: Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, and Battambang (control). The results will serve as a baseline for comparing the impact of early grade reading interventions being implemented in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap. The data reveal lower than expected levels of oral language ability among students in upper pre-school, especially given that Khmer is the mother tongue for nearly all students in the areas covered. For example, students responded correctly to only 3 out of 5 questions concerning a short passage that had been read to them. And in terms of their pre-literacy skills, when shown the letters they were supposed to learn in upper pre-school, students identified them with only 28% accuracy. Performance of grade 1 students on early literacy skills was also much lower than should be expected for the period during which the test was administered. For example, grade 1 students who were almost three-quarters of the way through the school year could only correctly identify letters 34% of the time and were identifying fewer than 10 letters per minute. When simpler forms of consonants and vowels were tested separately, grade 1 students performed better, but still correctly identified letters with less than 50% accuracy. Reading of familiar words in isolation or reading of a short grade-level passage were essentially non-existent.

Jordan Kindergarten Data for Decision Making

This report presents findings of a national survey of parents regarding enrollment in preprimary education (kindergarten) in Jordan. The findings are surprising because they suggest that the real enrollment rate is significantly higher than what government statistics indicate. The discrepancy seems to be due to a high level of kindergarten provision from private sector and civil society actors who are not licensed by the Ministry of Education.

A Practical Approach to In-Country Systems Research

This background paper was written for the RISE Program. This paper was written to contribute to the discussio of how RISE approaches the challenge of research into systems change. Drawing on years of experience and research dealing with the complexities of education reform to consider how to link changes in system-level capacity to appreciable improvements in learning outcomes. It also describes a basic notion of how a system adds value to schools, namely by performing three bare-bones functions: • Setting expectations for the outcomes of education • Monitoring and holding schools accountable for meeting those expectations • Intervening to support the students and schools that are struggling, and holding the system accountable for delivering that support

Results of Social and Behavior Change Communication Pilots in Senegal and Malawi

Social and behavior change communication (SBCC) represents the culmination of decades of research and practice in the public health field, where communication has been a critical element of efforts to encourage positive health behaviors. A basic tenet of SBCC is that information is necessary but seldom sufficient to sustainably change behavior (C-Change, 2012). The methodology bridges the gap between awareness and action by influencing the beliefs that can block or enable needed behavior change.

Scale-Up of Early Grade Reading Programs

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.