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Improving early-grade reading by engaging young children in learning

December 31, 2012

Across Ethiopia, children are not reaching the educational milestones they need to succeed later in life. A study released in August 2010 revealed that a significant number of Ethiopian children attending school for two or three years — including 30 percent of grade-two students and 20 percent of grade-three students — are unable to read and comprehend a simple reading passage. FHI 360 is tackling this issue in Ethiopia through the Improving the Quality of Primary Education Program (IQPEP). Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the program aims to increase the proportion of proficient readers from 3.1 percent (2009 baseline) to 35 percent for grade two and from 11.3 percent (2009 baseline) to 50 percent for grade three in the USAID-supported schools by June 2014.

To increase reading proficiency among these children, IQPEP is improving the capacity of teachers to teach early-grade reading. The project encourages participatory teaching and learning, and it trains teachers to take on the role of facilitator, enabling the children to become active-learning participants. Amare Tesfaye, a primary school teacher in Amhara Regional State, transformed her classroom with a simple technique. “To make it more participatory, I changed the sitting arrangement” in the classroom, she says. Her students now sit in groups and face one another.

IQPEP’s workshops help teachers generate new and enjoyable reading techniques to better reach their young students. “When I present a lesson topic to my students, I start with a choral song, which is very effective to motivate my students,” says Tesfaye. “Sometimes, I turn a letter, words, sentences and passages into a song so that my students can recite easily. I managed to make learning a reading skill easier and interesting to my students,” she adds. The workshops also give teachers tools for organizing their lessons into before-, during- and after-class activities to help students maximize their in-class time.

So far, more than 15,000 primary school teachers have been trained and given supplementary materials on teaching reading skills. To further improve reading proficiency in early grades, IQPEP plans to reach 40,000 teachers in 2,615 primary schools with training and related reading materials.