Early-grade studying assessments spur Sierra Leone to strengthen foundational literacy and numeracy expertise

Youngsters who be taught to learn, write, and acquire sturdy fundamental literacy and numeracy expertise within the early grade years are extra possible to achieve success all through their tutorial lives. Literacy ranges are additionally correlated with financial, civic, well being, and different high quality of life measures for people and complete nations.

Even earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a worldwide consensus that schooling programs weren’t delivering the standard schooling wanted to make sure that kids purchase the mandatory fundamental expertise. An Training Fee report (2020) estimated that 90 p.c of kids in low-income nations, 50 p.c of kids in middle-income nations, and 30 p.c of kids in high-income nations didn’t grasp the fundamental secondary-level expertise wanted to thrive. Moreover, an estimated 53 p.c of kids in low- and middle-income nations can not learn proficiently by age 10. Sadly, Sierra Leone falls into this class.

However Sierra Leone has a renewed imaginative and prescient to enhance literacy and numeracy within the early grades. The Training Sector Plan 2022-2026 is intently aligned with the objectives of Sustainable Improvement Purpose 4 on schooling. The nation is nurturing a holistic early childhood improvement (ECD) program centered on rising entry to preschool schooling by including a minimal of 1 12 months of preprimary schooling to the formal faculty system by setting up extra ECD lecture rooms, coaching academics in play-based methodology, and distributing over 20,000 ECD image books with accompanying coaching on the best way to use them. Complementary to that is the usage of radio-based educating applications to assist studying and educating coaching.

The nation additionally has set clear objectives for its nationwide foundational literacy program to get college students to learn extra usually, scale back the variety of nonreaders, and develop the proportion of succesful readers who can comprehend written texts. On the identical time, the nation is geared towards educating a mastery of foundational ideas in arithmetic.

To assist strengthen the nation’s foundational studying technique, in 2021 the Ministry of Primary and Senior Secondary Training in Sierra Leone, with assist from the World Partnership for Training and the United Nations Youngsters’s Fund, performed nationwide early-grade studying and math assessments to judge college students’ baseline competencies in literacy and numeracy.

The evaluation was performed in 260 colleges throughout all 16 districts of the nation with the view of gathering findings to handle systemic points on the faculty, district, and nationwide ranges that have an effect on kids’s studying. Info collected from 476 academics, 244 head academics, and 4,729 pupils (50 p.c ladies) in main grades two and 4 has revealed a few of the systemic drivers that underpin kids’s means to be taught numeracy and literacy.

What does the evaluation reveal?

The information from the early-grade studying evaluation utility throughout Africa in comparison with findings from the 2021 research in Sierra Leone exhibits that Sierra Leone falls within the higher half of nations, demonstrating fewer zero scores than different nations, particularly these administering English language assessments (Determine 1). (A zero rating means a pupil fails to supply any response to a query.) The information additionally present progress over the interval from 2014 to 2021 (Determine 2), depicting a major discount in zero-score efficiency and the share of nonreaders to virtually half in an oral fluency take a look at.

Figure 1. Percentage children with “zero” scores in reading

In literacy, the oral studying fluency outcomes point out that college students are progressing as readers from main 2 (P2) to main 4 (P4). Nevertheless, though college students can more and more establish phrases and skim textual content fluently, their understanding of these phrases and content material stays restricted, as is their conceptual means to use expertise they’ve discovered to different duties.

Figure 2. Proportion of learners scoring zero on early grade reading assessments, 2014 and 2021

With respect to numeracy, college students demonstrated notably increased expertise in fundamental, procedural math duties, versus considerably decrease expertise in conceptual ones (see Determine 3). Their expertise of math instruction is usually extra about memorization of info and guidelines than improvement of methods to seek out solutions to issues.

Figure 3. Proportion of learners scoring zero on early grade math assessments, 2014 and 2021

How are the baseline findings driving Sierra Leone’s agenda to construct kids’s foundational expertise?  

Sierra Leone’s evaluation examined the elements that influenced pupil studying, similar to instructor qualification, coaching, and preparedness in foundational studying. The evaluation confirmed that academics with a certificates qualification demonstrated extra constructive actions when educating literacy than these with out (although there was no related impression in numeracy instruction). This discovering has knowledgeable the nation’s instructor workforce administration technique, indicating the criticality of coaching and certification of in-service academics to make sure a constant provide of expert academics for the foundational literacy agenda.

The nationwide evaluation additionally confirmed that learners’ expertise with literacy and arithmetic instruction is extra about memorization of info and guidelines than improvement of methods to seek out solutions to issues. This has led to different necessary suggestions on educational and pedagogical interventions which can be serving to academics increase literacy and numeracy outcomes for growing learners according to grade-level expectations within the nation. Sierra Lone is utilizing the information in its instructor coaching agenda to assist academics develop a greater understanding of how kids purchase literacy and numeracy and the best way to allow college students to accumulate foundational expertise, align educating instruction to the learners’ degree, and monitor efficiency and provide remedial motion for enchancment.

Importantly, the research additionally concluded that college students with no preschool schooling struggled to achieve foundational expertise within the early years of main faculty, resulting in poorer efficiency and slower total progress. Consequently, Sierra Leone has made one 12 months of preprimary obligatory as a part of its Nationwide Built-in Coverage on Early Childhood Improvement 2021.

With this give attention to evidence-driven schooling coverage motion, Sierra Leone is shifting in the correct path with respect to its nationwide foundational literacy and numeracy programming. A big-scale, follow-up nationwide evaluation is deliberate in 2023 to know the good points remodeled this time period. Key issues to maintain the nationwide evaluation and improve its frequency are to advocate for presidency to allocate devoted assets within the annual price range for studying assessments and to undertake/adapt present real-time monitoring methodologies that may accompany educating and studying.