Moving the needle on reading achievement in Uganda

This brief presents Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) data from a randomized control trial conducted in conjunction with the USAID/Uganda School Health and Reading Program (SHRP). SHRP supports reading in 3,700 government schools working through the systems that support these schools and was the catalyst for reform efforts which now cover 80% of Uganda's government primary schools. The assessment collected baseline data at the beginning of Primary 1 for 12 language cohorts and follow up at the end of every school year. These data collected in October, 2017 track progress at the school level (and differences between program and control schools) until the end of Primary 4, Primary 5 or Primary 6 (depending on the year the language was phased into the program). Learning for Uganda and beyond • Registering significant programmatic gains in reading achievement takes time. In the case of Uganda, this is partially attributable to the low baseline levels of reading (94% of learners across the 12 languages could read no words in English at the beginning of P1) and other systemic challenges within Ugandan schools not uncommon in other settings including teacher and learner absenteeism. • When learners learn to read in a local language, the gains realized in the local language are transferred to learning to read in English Major messages - When children learn to read (decode) in their local language, they are able to transfer this skill to decoding English. However, more work needs to be done to improve English comprehension. - Although SHRP has been able to move more learners to higher reading levels and they are on their way to becoming fluent readers, there are still too many learners not acquiring foundation skills. - It takes more time to move children from the foundation threshold than anticipated but when you move them from that level, the gains take off as can be seen from P3 onwards. - Reading gains in large scale interventions working through government structures take time due to systemic and contextual challenges.