The impact of mother tongue reading instruction and the role of language complexity, program implementation, and socioeconomic factors
Rigorous evidence from a large-scale reading reform in Uganda
Brunette, T. A., Piper, B., Jordan, R., & Nabacwa, R. (2019). The impact of mother tongue reading instruction and the role of language complexity, program implementation, and socioeconomic factors: Rigorous evidence from a large-scale reading reform in Uganda. Comparative Education Review, 63(4), 591-612. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1086/705426
In Uganda, and in many other low-resource settings, too few children are learning how to read. In response, countries have embarked on large-scale reading programs, often with external support. Unfortunately, rigorous evidence of the impact of these programs at large scale remains limited. We present the impact of a large-scale mother tongue reading program in Uganda, which used randomized controlled trials in 12 different Ugandan language communities, on learning outcomes. Then we compare impacts explained by linguistic characteristics, variation in program implementation, and socioeconomic factors. The findings suggest that significant reading gains are possible in complex, large-scale mother tongue reading programs, but that variation exists in the magnitude of the impacts by language community. The results suggest that language characteristics, including complexity, are more predictive of program impact than either implementation fidelity or socioeconomic factors. Program designs should consider a wide range of factors, including language complexity, to maximize impact.