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Improving Early-Grade Literacy in East Africa: Experimental Evidence from Kenya and Uganda


  • Adrienne M. Lucas

    () (Department of Economics,University of Delaware)

  • Patrick J. McEwan

    () (Wellesley College)

  • Moses Ngware

    (African Population and Health Research Center)

  • Moses Oketch

    (African Population and Health Research Center)


Primary school enrollments have increased rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa, spurring concerns about low levels of learning. We analyze field experiments in Kenya and Uganda that assessed whether the Reading to Learn program, implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation in both countries, improved early-grade literacy as measured by common assessments. We find that Ugandan literacy (in Lango) increased by 0.2s. We find a smaller effect (0.08s) on a Kenyan literacy test in Swahili. We find no evidence that differential effects are explained by baseline differences in students or classrooms, or by implementation fidelity. We conclude that differences between countries can likely be attributed to differential effective exposure to the literacy treatment in the tested languages. Students in Kenya were tested in Swahili, which is not necessarily the primary language of instruction, despite official policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Adrienne M. Lucas & Patrick J. McEwan & Moses Ngware & Moses Oketch, 2013. "Improving Early-Grade Literacy in East Africa: Experimental Evidence from Kenya and Uganda," Working Papers 13-03, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:dlw:wpaper:13-03.

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    1. repec:wbk:wbpubs:26490 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Berry, Christopher & Barnett, Edward & Hinton, Rachel, 2015. "What does learning for all mean for DFID's global education work?," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 323-329.
    3. Stranger-Johannessen, Espen, 2017. "The African Storybook, teachers’ resources, and pedagogical practices," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 26-36.
    4. Fleisch, Brahm & Schöer, Volker & Roberts, Gareth & Thornton, Amy, 2016. "System-wide improvement of early-grade mathematics: New evidence from the Gauteng Primary Language and Mathematics Strategy," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 157-174.
    5. Jones, Sam, 2016. "How does classroom composition affect learning outcomes in Ugandan primary schools?," International Journal of Educational Development, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 66-78.
    6. Delavallade, Clara & Griffith, Alan & Shukla, Gaurav & Thornton, Rebecca, 2017. "Participation, learning, and equity in education: Can we have it all?," IFPRI discussion papers 1627, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Atuhurra, Julius & Alinda, Violet, 2017. "Basic Education curriculum effectiveness analysis in East Africa: Using the ‘Surveys of Enacted Curriculum’ framework to describe primary mathematics and English content in Uganda," MPRA Paper 79017, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 08 May 2017.

    More about this item


    education; literacy; teacher training; Kenya; Uganda; randomized controlled trial;

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education

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