The Girls’ Improved Learning Outcomes (GILO) project, a USAID-funded initiative, originally focused on expanding girls’ access to quality education in Upper Egypt, but evolved rapidly, later providing national support for education decentralization and the development of an Early Grade Reading Program (EGRP).
Phase 1: Direct support to schools
The early stages of the project provided direct support to 12 districts in Upper Egypt, primarily in the areas of teacher training and infrastructure. All first and second grade teachers in 166 different primary schools received comprehensive training in active and student-centered learning, classroom management, and other areas of professional development. School administrators and instructional supervisors were trained to provide positive support to teachers and use newly-installed management information systems (MIS). The GILO project supplied IT equipment and furniture for 2,700 classrooms, 160 computer labs, and 50 science labs.
RTI International also worked closely with the Ministries of Education, Finance, and Local Development to create a new funding formula to channel funds from the central government down to the individual school level, so those with the greatest need receive the most funding. RTI helped implement a small pilot and traced the money as it flowed successfully from central, to governorate, to district, to school levels and then had schools report back to explain how resources were utilized. The formula demonstrated no leakage and prompted a significant shift in legislation to incorporate the new funding model and establish support units at the ministry and governorate levels. RTI International provided technical assistance throughout the GILO project as the Ministry of Education put this new formula into practice.
Phase 2: Developing the EGRP
After the project’s first year, girls’ enrollment had improved dramatically. However, using a stratified random sample of primary students in program supported and control schools, a 2009 pilot Early Grade Reading Assessment in Arabic revealed shockingly low learning outcomes. The GILO project sought out the assistance of local Egyptian partners and language specialists to develop an Early Grade Reading Program in Arabic. The new EGRP incorporated the following changes:
- Emphasis on phonics instead of letter names; 25 minute letter-sound practice per day for students in grade 1
- More engaged teaching routines and supportive instruction
- A daily 90-minute independent reading period for students in grades 1 and 2
- Continuous classroom-based assessments to inform instruction
After 7 months, a post-intervention assessment was conducted on grade 2 students from the original participating and control schools. Students showed significant and remarkable improvement in syllable reading, word reading, and oral reading fluency, especially in comparison to students in control schools.
Phase 3: National expansion of the EGRP
Due to the program's overwhelming success, the central government funded the national expansion of the program to public schools in all 27 governorates, with technical support provided by RTI International. A national teacher training cascade model helped to certify 320 trainers and train some 35,000 grade 1 teachers. All teachers received an EGRP strategy package consisting of a teaching manual, worksheets, alphabet flipbook, e-learning resources, and a scripted lesson plan book. RTI International additionally helped to design new textbooks for grades 1, 2, and 3 through the end of the project in December 2013.
The federal government established an early grade reading unit by national decree, effectively changing instruction in grades 1 through 3. The Professional Academy for Teachers (PAT) in Egypt has embraced the training program and now requires teachers to be accredited with EGRP in order to be promoted to teach in primary grades.
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CEI approaches in action
4.2 million learners includes about 1.4 million students each in grades 1, 2, and 3.
In the span of a few years, the GILO project successfully developed and expanded the EGRP from a limited number of primary schools in Upper Egypt to all primary schools in the country's 27 governorates.
The Ministry of Education has displayed a commitment to continue moving forward with the EGRP but would benefit from additional support. RTI International has left substantial materials to assist the government in January 2014. Additionally, at the request of USAID, the GILO project adapted the Early Grade Math Assessment (EGMA) tool and piloted it in a limited number of schools.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Standardized Assessment Performance - Literacy | The following selection of results comes from a comparison betwen the 2009 baseline exam and the 2011 post-intervention Early Grade Reading Assessment. Students in intervention schools:
- Improved nearly 200% over baseline scores in syllable reading (identifying 19 more letter sounds per minute) versus a 21% improvement among students in control schools (identifying less than 2 more letter sounds per minute).
- Improved more than 110% in word reading (reading 8 more words correctly per minute) versus a 34% improvement among students in control schools (reading less than 2 more words per minute)
- Improved, on average, in oral reading fluency by 91% (reading 10 more words in a passage per minute) versus a 23% improvement in control schools (reading 2 more words per minute)
During the first phase, the GILO project saw an increase of 5.7% in the net enrollment rate for girls in supported schools.