Implementing Malawi’s national reading program: Opportunities, achievements, and challenges [Conference Panel Recording]

Despite successes in improving access to primary education, the Malawi education system has struggled to produce high levels of learning. The country has consistently ranked at or near the bottom in regional learning assessments, and an Early Grade Reading Assessment conducted in 2010 showed that 76 percent of Standard 2 learners could not identify any letters. To address the low reading performance, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with the Government of Malawi to pilot several projects aimed at improving reading performance. The lessons from these pilot projects led to the development of a National Reading Strategy (NRS) and a National Reading Program (NRP). With support from USAID, the NRP’s goal is to improve the reading skills of all students in Chichewa and English in the first four years of primary school. It does this through reforms to the curriculum, teacher professional development and coaching, development and distribution of teaching and learning materials, continuous assessment and remediation, and targeted support for learners with special needs. USAID supports the NRP by providing finance and technical assistance through several activities including MERIT: Malawi Early Grade Reading Improvement Activity (MERIT), Yesani Ophunzira (YESA), Strengthening Early Grade Reading in Malawi (SEGREM) and Reading for All Malawi (REFAM). This is the recording of the #vCIES 2020 conference session, whhich includes representatives from the MoEST and NRP implementation partners discussing their roles in supporting the NRP and sharing lessons around their approach, achievements, and challenges as they collaborate to get all children learning. The combined experiences of the partners will be useful for other projects, organizations, and governments who are looking to make a wide-scale change in their education systems.