Foundational Learning Improvement Program (FLIP)

Indian schoolchildren writing on slates

The world is facing a learning poverty crisis. A staggering 70 percent of primary school children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read at grade level mainly due to a lack of resources for teachers in the classroom and issues around languages of instruction.

Graphic: FLIP reaches thousands of learners in Africa, Latin America, and Asia

The Foundational Learning Improvement Program

AIR’s Foundational Learning Improvement Program (FLIP) is a multi-faceted foundational literacy and numeracy intervention, supporting teachers, communities, and governments and their partners to strengthen literacy outcomes in primary school learners in low- and middle-income countries.

FLIP is above all an assessment-informed, structured pedagogy toolkit aligned with existing curricula and teaching practices for teachers to use in the classroom. It is built on a science of reading in diverse language contexts. It consists of research-based components that have been shown to lead to significant improvements in reading skills, higher programmatic and policy uptake, and long-term sustainability.

FLIP is being implemented at scale, in close collaboration with the governments of Benin and Lesotho. Pilots were implemented in Laos and Guatemala with Catholic Relief Services.

FLIP Elements

Indian teacher with young male student

Formative Assessment

FLIP strengthens teachers’ capacity to teach reading through classroom-based formative assessments that are linked directly to targeted and remedial teaching activities.

  • Tailored assessments for specific orthographies and language types
  • Testing for bilingual and multilingual students, including classroom-level language mapping and language transitioning assessment tools
  • Simple and targeted reading comprehension items for a variety of primary school levels
Kenyan schoolchildren in classroom

Structured Pedagogy

Results of formative assessments allow teachers to group students by level of reading skills and direct teachers to specific teaching activities and materials to support learning in each group.

  • Variety of teaching strategies and methods aligned with student levels
  • Language-specific, and bilingual-specific pedagogical approaches
  • Pedagogies aligned with orthographic-specific learning trajectories
  • Supplemental materials like story cards, vocabulary walls, and symbol blocks
  • Technology options to support delivery, where appropriate
Indian teacher on laptop with students

Teacher Training & Coaching

Teachers receive training and individualized coaching that equips them with the relevant tools and strategies for effective literacy instruction.

  • Teacher competency assessments to support teacher recruitment, assignment, and retention
  • Constant coaching and support
  • Incentivization pathways
African child doing homework with his mother

Community-Based Activities

FLIP’s participatory and inclusive community-based activities harness local resources and culture to build children’s literacy skills in an engaging and sustainable manner.

  • Story-telling circles, engaging local elders sharing folktales and legends
  • Promoting literacy through art with visual storytelling boards
  • Community radio readings of stories and educational content
  • Stories-on-wheels, using volunteers to bring reading materials and activities to remote villages
Hand writing on a form

Embedded Research

FLIP includes built-in rigorous mixed-methods evaluations, monitoring, evaluation, and learning processes to inform continuous improvement and adaptation.

  • Using classroom-based assessments
  • Mixed-method impact evaluations
  • Implementation fidelity measurement
  • Customized indicator development and testing
  • Frequent pause and reflect sessions


Evidence Base

FLIP builds on cognitive science and empirical research, especially from bilingual and multilingual low- and middle-income country contexts. Each component gets updated with growing evidence from FLIP programming around the world.

The first pilots of FLIP components took place in Laos and Guatemala. In partnership with Catholic Relief Services, a team of AIR’s literacy experts created, implemented, and evaluated a child literacy development program for grade 1 and 2 children in Laos and for grade 1 in Guatemala. A mixed-methods evaluation, which included more than 430 schools from both countries, showed significant improvements in teacher instruction and student literacy outcomes.

FLIP reflects AIR’s decades of experience conducting literacy research around best practices of language of instruction. It is well known that building children’s literacy skills in a language they use and understand lays a strong foundation for literacy and reading development. However, determining the language of instruction in the early years and developing the relevant teacher capacity is a complex task in linguistically diverse countries.

AIR experts developed innovative techniques to inform policymaking and programming around the language of instruction in multilingual contexts. These techniques provide an important foundation for FLIP:

  • Language mapping is a scientific technique that determines the initial or home language(s) children use and understand before starting formal schooling. Mapping children’s home languages informs policy and programmatic choices around the language of instruction.
  • Language transitioning and bridging help determine the empirical points of “transfer” of skills from the mother tongue to the second (or later) language. It informs the design of how, and when, to teach and assess students in language(s) they have to learn in school that they may or may not speak or use at home.