Ethiopia has made significant gains in improving access to schooling over the past 20 years; however, the expected return from investment is jeopardized by severe equity and quality challenges, especially in reading. Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) results from 2010 and 2014 show that many primary school children are unable to read. For example, in 2014, 79.6% and 58.6% of Grade 2 students from Hadiyissa and Wolayttatto language groups, respectively, had scores of zero on reading comprehension.
Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed Monitoring and Evaluation (READ M&E) is designed to foster effective use of assessment tools, testing methodology, and the data they generate, to improve early-grade reading and writing, and ultimately student learning. In implementing the project, AIR monitors and evaluates early grade reading fluency and comprehension, and provides overall monitoring and evaluation support to the USAID on their suite of reading programs in Ethiopia. We also provide monitoring and evaluation information and capacity building to the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and other local government stakeholders.
READ M&E has three objectives:
- Monitor the implementation of the three other READ activities.
- Administer EGRAs and other assessment tools to measure student learning outcomes (2016 and 2018).
- Build the capacity of the Ministry of Education in EGRA and in national learning assessments administration and analysis.
The READ M&E project includes the development of a continuous assessment system to inform teachers about challenges linked to mother-tongue acquisition and the development of reading skills. The project team is also working with the National Educational Assessment and Examinations Agency and its regional bureaus to strengthen their capacity to conduct EGRAs and national learning assessments independently.
The Language Transition Study
The Language Transition Study examined how to improve literacy acquisition for students learning to read in multilingual Ethiopia. Specifically, we examined if there is a “tipping point” or threshold for transfer of reading skills from the mother tongue to English in four Ethiopian languages: Aff Oromo, Amharic, Berta, and Wolayttatto. This, in turn, can help policy makers determine optimal timing of introduction of English as a second (or later acquired) language.
The results revealed evidence for the existence of such a threshold level in all four languages. The main implication of this is that if you introduce English literacy instruction below the mother tongue reading threshold point, a child is unlikely to benefit as much in terms of English reading acquisition as if English literacy instruction is introduced above these mother tongue reading threshold points.
The policy implications of this for structuring effective lanaguge policy in Ethiopia and other similar multilingual education contexts around the world are discussed in the report.
The Mother Tongue Teacher Competency Assessment (MTTCA)
The Mother Tongue Teacher Competency Assessment (MTTCA) was developed under the USAID’s READ M&E project to evaluate teachers’ preparedness for teaching reading in 7 Ethiopian languages (Tigrigna, Amharic, Afaan Oromo, Sidaamu Afoo, Wolaytatto, Haddiysa, and Af Somali). It was born out of the identified needs to further assess primary teachers’ competencies in Ethiopia based on the findings from the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) conducted under READ M&E in 2016 and 2018.
The MTTCA is structured around the three major components:
- Teachers’ own skills in language they teach (reading comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar);
- Their competencies in subject specific pedagogy appropriate for grade 1-4 students (e.g., methods and practices of teaching early grade reading); and
- Their knowledge and skills in general pedagogy such as student-centered teaching, classroom management, and student assessment.
The development of MTTCA followed the industry standard procedures and was administered in July 2019 on a sample of 342 schools and 670 primary teachers. The sample was taken from 5 regions covering 7 mother tongue languages to provide insights into characteristics of teachers’ preparedness at a systemic level. Considering its formative role, the MTTCA generated ample information that can be used by policy and instruction experts to design effective activities that lead to the improvement of teachers’ effectiveness and ultimately student learning outcomes.
In addition to its evaluative and formative role, MTTCA data were used to explore the association between primary teachers’ competencies and reading performance of students observed in the same schools as the EGRA 2018 study. The major finding obtained by analysis of variance reveals a statistically significant and strong relationship between the levels of teacher competencies measured by MTTCA and reading performance of students measured by EGRA.
The full MTTCA report presents more further on the methods and results along with their practical implications, as well as an elaborated discussion in the context of teacher training practices and approaches to implementation and evaluation of reading interventions.