LUSAKA – After almost five years of collaboration between the Zambian Ministry of Education, the U.S. Government, through the USAID Education Data Project, has delivered on its mandate to facilitate in-depth, advanced educational assessments in Zambia.
Since April 2018, the USAID Education Data Project worked closely with both the Ministry of Education and the Examinations Council of Zambia (ECZ) to measure and improve learning performance in early-grade reading and early childhood education in Zambia. The project conducted two large-scale Early Grade Reading Assessments (EGRAs) in November 2018 and November 2021. The assessments measured the reading skills, including letter names, letter sounds, and the ability to read fluently of approximately 30,000 Grade 2 learners in Southern, Western, North-western, Eastern and Muchinga provinces.
The 2021 EGRA and the ECZ-led national assessment revealed that learners have low basic foundational reading skills required for meaningful learning – such as identifying letters and phonetic sounds. The assessments revealed that only 4.6 percent of learners meet the Ministry of Education’s minimum reading benchmarks set for children at Grade 2 level. This was due in part to the prolonged school closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the assessment provided a solid foundation of data that showed where students are falling behind, which can guide the next stages of Zambia’s educational development agenda to address those shortcomings.
In addition to the reading assessment, the USAID Education Data project partnered with the ECZ’s Research Unit in several capacity-sharing projects in research design, data collection, and analysis using technology platforms. As the five-year project draws to a close, ECZ is now better positioned to continue maximizing technology tools and training provided through the USAID Education Data project to support ongoing work in national assessments.
USAID collaborates with Zambia’s Ministry of Education to improve learner performance by focusing on the development of critical foundational reading skills in children in the early grades of primary school. Furthermore, by partnering with the Ministry of Education, the United States Government aims to improve the quality of reading instruction and learning materials, strengthen monitoring and assessment, and harness the engagement of communities to improve childhood literacy rates.