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Improving Reading Outcomes and Supporting Bilingual Education in Senegal

Photo credit: Patricia Esteves

The Renforcement de la Lecture Initiale pour Tous (RELIT) program is helping the Government of Senegal deliver high-quality, evidence-based bilingual reading instruction to improve learning outcomes in early grades.


Support the education system's transition to a new bilingual education curriculum that delivers instruction in a home or community language the child understands and gradually introduces French as a second language


Increase the capacity of national education authorities to support the implementation of the bilingual reading instruction; increase access to high-quality inclusive learning methods and materials in national languages; and engage communities, parents, and other stakeholders to play an active role in supporting access to a quality education in Senegal for all children.  


It is expected that wide-ranging system and instructional improvements will increase students’ foundational literacy skills and set them up for success later in life.  

The Renforcement de la Lecture Initiale Pour Tous (RELIT) program (“strengthening early grade reading for all” in English), made possible by the support of the American people through USAID, builds on previous USAID-funded efforts to improve early grade reading instruction and reading outcomes for children in Wolof, Seereer, and Pulaar—three national languages in Senegal—in seven sub-national regions (Diourbel, Fatick, Kaolack, Kaffrine, Louga, Matam, and Saint Louis).

Working with Senegal’s Ministry of Education and partners at central and local levels, RELIT is:

  • Expanding bilingual instruction to three additional local languages (Mandinka, Soninke, and Diola) and two additional regions (Tambacounda and Kédougou).  
  • Supporting the development of a comprehensive curriculum for French as a second language, from kindergarten through second grade, that builds on the foundations of literacy introduced to children through their local languages. 
  • Increasing the capacity of teachers to deliver high-quality bilingual reading instruction. Piloting an integrated, holistic approach to kindergarten that improves oral language development in local languages and French as a second language, as well as school readiness. 
  • Partnering with and building the capacity of Ministry of Education officials, parents, and communities to successfully implement the government’s bilingual education policy. 
  • Strengthening system capacity to deliver effective bilingual education for children through policy support, self- assessment of essential competencies, and other skill-building activities.  

Improving literacy​ in Senegal​ in early grades

RELIT is engaging local linguists, writers, teachers, and educational researchers to develop evidence-based models for early grade bilingual reading instructional methods and materials, beginning with pre-primary school readiness. The program is building the capacity of local publishers to produce and deliver such materials, and of teachers to effectively integrate these materials into classroom instruction.

Successful implementation of the bilingual education policy will depend in part on community support for bilingual education. Through a series of community consultations and surveys, RELIT has identified potential barriers to adoption of bilingual education, such as negative attitudes, misconceptions about bilingual education and issues related to gender and inclusiveness. Regular community engagement and mobilization activities will be conducted throughout the program to help communities understand and support bilingualism. 

Enhancing teacher capacity 

High-quality reading instruction, even with the best materials, requires well-prepared teachers. The program is supporting regional and district education authorities [the Inspection d’Academies (IA) and the Inspection de l’Education et de la Formation (IEF)] in making teacher professional development more impactful and accessible to teachers on a regular basis. Since education authorities are often unable to frequently visit schools and teachers, teacher support will also come from within and between schools.  

RELIT has introduced an approach that combines on-site support from school directors with learning communities and technology-enhanced networking among teachers; technology-based links to staff at the IA and IEF; and targeted visits from IEF support personnel.

RELIT is collaborating with the education authorities to improve and focus training on language and literacy instruction in early grades. This includes updating pre-service teacher training modules to address bilingual education in Senegal and increasing teacher skills through online learning opportunities and multimedia resources that help them build language proficiency. These efforts will help to build children’s foundational reading skills and a smooth transition from kindergarten into the primary grades. 

Increasing local capacity ​for education improvement​ 

RELIT partners closely with the Ministry of Education at the central, regional, and local levels to ensure that learning outcomes continue to improve, and to reinforce the capacity of education system actors, local organizations, and Senegalese families to support bilingual early grade learning.

In the first two years of implementation, technical teams comprised of Ministry of Education officials and project counterparts reviewed system documents, developed and tested self-assessment tools, and then applied them across all nine regions of RELIT and at the central level to establish a baseline capacity-needs assessment and capacity-building plans. Periodic self-assessments will be conducted to gauge whether core elements of the system are in place and effectively supporting the short-, medium- and long-term changes needed to lead to sustainable bilingual reading performance in Senegal.

Learn more about RTI’s work in international education and in Senegal

Read our related blog: Government-to-Government Assistance Modalities Show Promise for Locally Led Development in Senegal