WASHINGTON— Amber Gove, Ph.D., team leader for teaching and learning in the International Development Group at RTI International, spoke to Congressional staffers and policy analysts on September 11, as part of the Basic Education Coalition’s Congressional Briefing “Education and Literacy: A Path to Economic Growth and Stability” on Capitol Hill.
The briefing was sponsored by Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) and was moderated by Dr. Kristien Zenkov, of George Mason University.
The discussion centered on the importance of literacy in basic education programs and highlighted programs intended to equip vulnerable populations with the necessary skills to enter the workforce and foster stability.
Gove’s presentation focused on the challenges of improving basic education in low-income countries, primarily in early reading.
While enrollment in low-income countries’ primary schools has seen an increase since 2000, completion of primary school in the developing world remains a challenge. In some countries, the share of children who cannot read a single word of a reading passage exceeds 80 to 90 percent.
“These numbers are shocking. I was shocked,” Gove said during the briefing. “How can it be that 60, 70, 80 percent of students cannot read a single word after spending at least two years in school? More importantly, what can we do about it?”
Gove introduced the group to the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), the individually administered, one-on-one measure of the foundation skills of reading, developed by RTI. She emphasized how EGRA, having gained favor with many in the field, was adapted for use in nearly 60 languages in more than 40 countries.
The highest rates of illiteracy are found in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is a major shortage of trained and motivated teachers.
“Many teachers in many countries have had very little formal training and almost no support in how to teach reading,” Gove said. “Yes, teaching is both an art and a science, but we know enough about the science of teaching reading at this point that we can use the research to inform the development of specific reading instruction programs.”
Previous to her Congressional Briefing speaking engagement, Gove was a panelist at the United States Agency for International Development’s Literacy Day program.
The event was held on September 7, in conjunction with USAID’s partnership with World Vision and AusAID to launch a multi-year initiative that seeks to improve early grade reading outcomes in low-resource settings called All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development.
Gove participated in the session, “School-Based Reading Programs that Work; Results from the Field.” She presented on evidence from RTI’s work on the USAID-funded EGRA Plus: Liberia program, which was designed as a randomized controlled trial to test the effect of different levels of intervention in early reading improvement.
For more information, see the USAID Education Data for Decision Making (EdData) II website.