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 0.2σ. We find a smaller effect (0.08σ) on a Swahili literacy test in Kenya. 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.