McGovern-Dole Food for Education Project in Benin

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Foundational learning, children and teacher

In Benin, between 2010 and 2015, the number of students at all academic levels in formal and non-formal education systems increased significantly with an especially high increase (39%) of pre-primary students. However, literacy rates in the country remain low, and school dropout rates are high.

Research shows that more than half of public school teachers in Benin have not received any training and that there is a shortage of teachers, overloaded curriculums, large and overcrowded classrooms, and poorly paid teachers. In low- and middle-income countries, research suggests that improving foundational literacy requires a combination of teacher guides and professional development, classroom materials for each child, and teacher coaching.

AIR – as a sub-contractor to Catholic Relief Services, and funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food for Education project – is implementing the Foundational Literacy Improvement Package (FLIP) model in Northern Benin over the course of five years (2022-2026).

FLIP is a classroom-based, formative assessment teacher toolkit which uniquely integrates research and evidence into every step of implementation. It is driven by a science of reading acquisition, especially in multilingual and linguistically diverse contexts. It is designed to be integrated with existing curricula and to be adopted and owned by country governments and other program implementers.

FLIP allows teachers to understand where their students stand on a range of bilingual and multilingual literacy acquisition skills, and then provides teachers with a host of tools and supplementary materials to instruct each group of children, especially in large, multi-skill, multi-grade classrooms. These toolkits have been tested and have shown significant impact on reading outcomes.

AIR will work with Benin’s Ministry of Early Childhood and Primary Education (Ministere De L'Enseignement Maternel et Primaire) throughout the FLIP’s implementation to support capacity building at all levels of the national education system and to ensure the program’s sustainability.

Through the FLIP model, AIR will also support various literacy activities designed to engage parents and the larger community including:

  • Reading readiness camps and community reading events;
  • Stories in French and mother tongue languages on local radio stations; and
  • Engaging  parent groups around strategies to promote student literacy at home.

Throughout the project, AIR will produce technical and research reports to disseminate findings, highlight progress, and engage stakeholders.