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Teaching literacy

Information on methodologies for teaching reading and literacy skills.

Report on the EdTech Hub Sandbox: Radio Program for Early Primary Literacy in the Lango Sub-region September – December 2020

As schools in Uganda closed down in late March 2020 due to Covid-19, Mango Tree Literacy Lab (MTLL) had to reconsider its 2020 work plan. When the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) published its “Framework for the Provision of Continued Learning During the Covid-19 Lockdown in Uganda” and began radio education programs in the Lango Sub-region, MTLL decided to develop our own radio education programming focused on literacy instruction for children in P1-P3, an area of the curriculum that the MoES was not able to address because it required creating materials in multiple local languages. With no dedicated funding for this, MTLL partnered with Radio Q FM, a local radio station, who generously agreed to provide MTLL with one hour every Saturday for no charge.
In May 2020, Mango Tree, together with Ichuli Institute, responded to a call by the EdTech Hub for non-internet education innovations that addressed the Covid-19 crisis. Upon selection to participate, MTLL ran a “Sandbox” (short experimental pilot) in the four districts of Alebtong, Dokolo, Kole and Otuke, in the Northern Uganda Lango sub-region from September to December.

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The Use and Dissemination of Openly Licensed Storybooks and Learning Materials by Mango Tree Literacy Lab, Lira, Uganda

Mango Tree Literacy Lab (MTLL) is a Ugandan NGO that believes that African children have the right to read, write and engage with ideas in a language they know and understand. Since 2010, Mango Tree has been supporting early primary literacy in the Lango Sub-region of northern Uganda. This project case study is on the use and dissemination of openly licensed storybooks and learning materials.This project has provided the opportunity to learn about the impact open licensing could have on the distribution of MTLL's literacy materials as well as experiment with establishing a local market for our storybooks through sales by local vendors.

More information about MTLL’s work can be found on its website, as well as on its Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Literacy Boost in Rwanda: Impact Evaluation of a Two Year Randomized Control Trial

This report assessed school- and community-based reading. The Stanford-led team conducted a randomized control trial of a literacy intervention in Rwanda to determine whether programs aimed at families and communities had an impact on children's reading --above and beyond-- the traditional approach of training teachers. The full report will be found at

Optimising Learning, Education and Publishing in Africa: The Language Factor

A Review and Analysis of Theory and Practice in Mother-Tongue and Bilingual Education in sub-Saharan Africa

Learning to improve Learning: Lessons from Early Primary Interventions and Evaluations in India and Sub-Saharan Africa

In 2006, when the Hewlett Foundation started the Quality Education in Developing Countries initiative, one of the initiative’s goals was to help answer precisely this question. From 2007 to 2013, combining resources with co-funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation supported eleven school-level approaches to improving early learning, accompanied by ten rigorous evaluations. The grants spanned India and five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Senegal, and Ghana. Most organizations focused on improving instructional practice, tackling head-on the fact that teachers are insufficiently prepared to teach reading and math in the early primary grades.

The studies funded by the Foundation constitute a significant contribution to existing evaluation evidence on how to improve student learning. Recent meta-analyses catalogue fewer than 80 randomized studies in the developing world that have examined learning as an outcome variable (McEwan 2013, Krishnaratne et al. 2013). Given the paucity of existing studies, it is still early days for building evidence on what works to improve learning.

The remainder of this paper provides a synthesis of what we know about how to improve learning outcomes. Three areas seem to be critical: (1) improved instruction; (2) strong teacher training and in-school mentoring; and (3) community engagement in learning. The paper concludes with recommendations for carrying this work forward, including ways the results could help shape the future research agenda.

Landscape Report on Early Grade Literacy

This Landscape Report on Early Grade Literacy takes stock of where we are, as a global community of educators within the field of international development, in improving literacy acquisition in the early grades in low-income countries. Hence, the purpose of the report is to review relevant, recent research coming principally from developing country contexts on efforts to improve early grade literacy learning and instruction. The scope of this report includes reviewing evidence from the field on (1) what has worked in developing countries; (2) what practices show promise at this point even if the available evidence is not yet definitive; and (3) what the gaps in the literature/evidence base are. Within these large and overarching goals, topics of examination and discussion include:

  • Cross cutting aspects in literacy instruction: Instructional time, assessment, and teaching and learning materials, including ICTs
  • Skill building in the following areas: emergent literacy, oral language, reading fluency, reading comprehension, and early writing.
  • Literacy acquisition in multilingual contexts
  • Teacher knowledge, and teacher education practices
  • Parental and community engagement
  • Long-run considerations: costs, financing, scaling up, and sustainability of literacy programs

If you don't understand, how can you learn?

Quality education should be delivered in the language spoken at home. However, this minimum standard is not met for hundreds of millions, limiting their ability to develop foundations for learning. By one estimate, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. The challenges are most prevalent in regions where linguistic diversity is greatest such as in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and the Pacific.

Poverty and gender magnify educational disadvantages linked to ethnicity and language. With a new global education agenda that prioritizes equity and lifelong learning for all, the policy of respecting language rights is essential and deserves close attention.