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Education leaders collaborate on early grade reading in Asia

Reading is the foundation of learning. Ensuring that children can read in early grades will determine their future educational success.

Children who fail to read in the early grades will most likely fall further behind each school year, when the reading ability is progressively used as a tool for acquiring other types of knowledge. Poorly performing students struggle to catch up and some of them hopelessly drop out of school... Breaking the illiteracy trap requires early intervention and early grade reading in particular is a powerful tool to achieve later educational success.

- From the Global Partnership for Education’s introduction to its Early Grade Reading efforts

(October 2012) The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) invited representatives of government education ministries, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations and donor partners from across Asia to the second in a series of All Children Reading workshops. The event took place 17-20 September in Bangkok, Thailand. An SIL literacy consultant was among those who presented information on the state of literacy education in the region.

According to GPE, approximately two hundred million primary school children in developing countries are struggling to read even basic words. It is well known that access to education has a profound effect on the well-being of individuals, families and communities. In light of these facts, developing more effective strategies for literacy education is of clear importance.

Dr. Catherine Young of LEAD Asia (a unit of SIL in Asia) was invited to present facts on the influence of language of instruction on school participation and learning outcomes for children in the early grades. In many communities in Asia, education is delivered in a majority language of the region or an international language. While the language of instruction is likely one viewed as having high status, it may not be the language that learners speak at home—in fact, it may be a language in which students have little or no fluency. Children may not understand the teacher until several years into their education. For many students, this is the primary barrier to learning and the source of frustration that leads to children leaving school. Young’s presentation introduced ways in which children can learn to read fluently and with comprehension with instruction provided in the learners’ mother tongue. Students who have learned to read in their own language are then much better prepared to transfer literacy skills to additional languages, which can be introduced as a subject in the curriculum.

In addition to Young’s presentation on language of instruction, other topics covered during the All Children Reading Asia workshop included:

Earlier this year, SIL staff participated in a similar workshop hosted by GPE in Rwanda.

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