Plenary 3: Panel: Early Grade Reading:
Summary of Evidence, Implications, and New Directions from Donors
August 23, 2011 — 10:15 a.m.
||Luis Crouch, Education For All Fast Track Initiative Secretariat
Robert Prouty, Fast Track Initiative Secretariat
Elizabeth King, World Bank
Gemma Wilson-Clark, Department for International Development (DFID)
Chloe O’Gara, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
||Patrick Collins, USAID Office of Education
This plenary panel focused on early reading, presenting evidence of its importance, implications for programming, and the current collaboration of donors in making early reading the center of their policy framework in education. Luis Crouch reviewed the research to lay the evidence base for the current focus on the importance of early learning. In his summary of the evidence, he noted that education matters, quality of education is important, and education is life changing for those children who learn to read early and well. In measuring the returns from education, without exception, children who receive a quality education have more and better life attainments. Crouch emphasized the importance of: (a) delivering quality improvements in education based on evidence, (b) demanding accountability from educators, (c) on-going child assessment, and (d) making appropriate learning materials available.
Robert Prouty from the Fast Track Initiative (FTI) Secretariat noted the organization’s move from a focus on access to education to a focus on learning. Through FTI efforts, access has surged and the organization believes a similar surge in learning is possible with focused attention and resources. The organization has two new programmatic directions: (a) a Global and Regional Activities Program (GRA) that will develop stronger evidence in reading and learning instructions as a basis for bringing successful programs to scale, and (b) a results-based approach to learning that will be the basis for funding the next round of countries that demonstrate a built-in component for learning achievement.
Elizabeth King described the World Bank’s new education strategy that is based on the mantra “Invest early. Invest wisely. Invest cooperatively.” Invest Early will focus on early learning of children at home, with their family, and at school. Wise investment will center on assessment, accountability, and autonomy of assessment at the school level. Cooperative investment will support holistic system development so that all education levels work in coordination to improve learning. Gemma Wilson-Clark described DFID’s plan to provide a full cycle of primary and secondary education support, emphasizing research, to achieve evidence-based results. DFID support will center on basic literacy and numeracy skills, especially for girls in Africa and Asia. The agency is already in communication with USAID in several countries to map research interests and generate country-level data. DFID has identified the lack of practical in-country advice on what works as a gap in expanding the focus on early reading through donor coordination, information sharing, and agreement on joint indicators.
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation works in six African countries with programmatic ties through a common strategy focusing on effective instruction and use of resources. Chloe O’Gara, the foundation’s representative, applauded the apparent alignment among donors on present progress and agreement on what still needs to be accomplished. She expanded on how her organization confirms the need and supports the creation of a common international learning indicator as the basis for collaborative research. She also noted the need to convene an international education group for research as a vehicle for identifying and sharing results on country-level learning.
Key take away points from the session included the identified need to move beyond a focus on access to a focus on early learning issues. The many benefits of early reading attainment on life-long achievement are well supported by the research. Accountability in program implementation is necessary, but early learning achievement should be driven by a host governments’ recognition of the need to improve its own human resource base and not driven by a donor’s agenda. Assessment is a key program component that needs to be used to support strengthened learning processes and future programming, not merely as a measure of current learning performance. There appears to be a growing consensus on the need to focus support efforts at the school and classroom level. At this level it can help improve direct education delivery, especially through more effective teacher preparation and delivery to improve early reading proficiency. The sense of collaboration and alignment of policy frameworks among all the present donors communicates the growing recognition of the importance of focusing on the quality of education.