Global Partnership for Education WP Series on Learning
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Raising Literacy from 20 Percent to 80 Percent? A Science-Based Strategy for GPE Partner Countries(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-05-30) Abadzi, HelenGovernments and donors have been working hard to develop efficient learning programs and resolve the learning crisis. Scientific lessons have already been implemented in a few countries. Global Partnership for Education (GPE) gave technical advice to Cambodia and the Gambia on reading (also on math); the reading pilots resulted in very satisfactory outcomes and expressions of appreciation by governments. Not surprisingly, other GPE partner countries have directly requested technical advice. With sharp messages and close coordination, the current mountain of problems can be reduced to a molehill in five years. Basic reading can be taught efficiently and quickly, by the middle of grade one. If such an outcome seems unbelievable, it is only because reading is taught through models tailor-made for certain western European languages. Students are to learn basic reading in local languages within the first 100 days of grade one. At the same time, they will learn the official language orally. In grade two they will receive a bridging course to transition eventually to the formal language. The many older illiterate students are to be remediated through the same 100-day program ('literate school in 100 days') and similarly receive a bridging course to the official language. One issue that is often voiced by government officials is that language of instruction for early grade reading is desirable, but students should exit early and not spend years studying in a local language. Given the need for basic literacy, it is certainly possible to follow the policy option that government's desire. In higher-income countries, students get exposed to print before school, so they progress fast in automaticity and text interpretation. Commensurately, the poor are expected to progress quickly into meaning and content. The early learning failure in low income countries is due to missing 'low level' building-block skills.
Literacy for All in 100 Days? A Research-based Strategy for Fast Progress in Low-income Countries(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013-05-30) Abadzi, HelenIn low-income countries many students are marginalized very early and remain illiterate. In grades 1-3 they attend rarely, though they may officially drop out in grade 4. Many others graduate from primary school without having learned letter values. The worrisome outcomes, despite much donor investment in low-income countries, have prompted scrutiny of the methods, and textbooks used to make students literate. This document offers insights from cognitive neuroscience and evidence suggesting that students can be taught basic literacy within the first semester of grade 1, if taught in consistently spelled languages. Teaching students at risk of dropout to read as early as possible enhances equity. However, the reading methods used in many countries are complex and hard for teachers to execute. They pertain to high-income countries and to certain western European languages. English but also French, Portuguese, and Dutch have complex spelling systems. English in particular requires three years of learning time. (French requires about two). Reading instruction for English is expensive and complex. Lists of whole words must be learned, vocabulary and early training in predictions are needed in order to make sense of words that cannot be sounded out. Learning must be started at kindergarten, parents must help at home, and many weaker students require remedial instruction. Since English is an official language in many countries, the travails of learning to read in this language have been considered the normal fate of reading. Overall, reading methods must be resilient to the vicissitudes of implementation. Many activities work well in higher-income countries or small pilots, but at scale-up they sink. Governments and donors should train up to existing capacity, rather than try to raise capacity to the requirements of complex methods.
Visual and Linguistic Factors in Literacy Acquisition : Instructional Implications for Beginning Readers in Low-income Countries(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2013) Marinelli, Chiara Valeria ; Martelli, Marialuisa ; Praphamontripong, Prachayani ; Zoccolotti, Pierluigi ; Abadzi, HelenImproving the quality of literacy teaching may require intervening at different levels, for example, encouraging school attendance and optimizing textbook format and teaching methods. Reading is a complex task involving perceptual, motor, linguistic, phonological, and memory components, each of which has a crucial role in determining reading rate. High poverty rates continue to have a negative impact on human resource development and education quality in Africa, further complicating the ability of most countries to reach the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Moreover, Africa and Asia are hosts to most of the world's multilingual countries, in which textbook availability in major indigenous languages is sorely lacking. Therefore, it is important to take all possible steps to maximize the effectiveness of teaching interventions. In parallel, also the quality of textbooks is a crucial factor for quality education, especially in developing countries. It is important to dispose of well-written and well-designed textbooks, because the quality of textbook can be an important predictor of student learning and can contribute to the effective use of instructional time and classroom teaching. This review examines the evidence regarding variables influencing acquisition of decoding and comprehension reading skills. One important caveat is in order. While the educational, psychological and neuroscience literature on reading is extensive, it largely depends upon studies on English speaking individuals. The first part of the review focuses on studies of visual psychophysics and examines the visual limitations affecting reading and its development. The second part of the review draws on the psychological and neuroscience literature to examine the role of several variables influencing reading acquisition, such as letter knowledge, teaching method, teacher's competence, orthographic consistency.