The extended impact of READ TA’s support for minority MT languages in Ethiopia

Presentation delivered at CIES 2017 (Atlanta). Ethiopia is a diverse country, with a population of over 90 million, and over 83 local languages. Many of the mother tongue languages (MTs) are taught in schools and used as instructional languages in primary schools. However, it is an enormous challenge to address all local languages in the education system as studies indicate that students are struggling to read and write in their mother tongue. While the USAID-funded READ TA Project has been working over the past four years on improving the reading and writing skills of students in seven Ethiopian MT languages it has also seen the effects of its work extending to other local languages with smaller populations of speakers. The seven languages under READ TA were chosen by Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MoE) as they have the largest populations of students. READ TA has been providing technical assistance for the MoE and Regional State Education Bureaus (RSEBs) on revising the grades 1-8 curriculum materials for the seven MTs, in the provision of in-service training for MT teachers, in revising the pre-service teacher training curriculum materials, and in building the capacity of leaders and experts working in the general education system. In providing this technical assistance, READ TA has been creating a collaborative environment where a large number of experts with diverse background and professional experience work together throughout the process. Among the major actors are international literacy/reading experts, local reading/language experts working in teacher training colleges and universities, primary school teachers, MoE and RSEB language experts, experts in cross-cutting issues (gender, inclusive education, ICT), curriculum and instruction experts. There was huge capacity building through the provision of a number of trainings, through professional dialogues and collaborative engagements, and from engaging in the different activities. Observing the MT curriculum revision process and seeing products, speakers of other, less commonly spoken MT languages which were not included in the READ TA project are now demanding the MoE and RSEBs for a similar opportunity. Some regions have to respond to the requests and are taking their own initiatives to revise the curriculum materials of minority languages. These engagements are reflections of the developed technical capacity as well as the impact of the quality of work READ TA has been doing. Projects like READ TA may not address every need a country has; however, the local capacity built enables countries to fill those untouched gaps.