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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Reading Skill Transfer across Languages: Outcomes from Longitudinal Bilingual Randomized Control Trials in Kenya and Haiti.
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
URL http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED562423.pdf
Abstract
Within developing world contexts, education initiatives exist in environments that both pose
challenges and offer opportunities for innovations. In Kenya, school fees were abolished in 2003,
and since then, gross primary enrollment rates have risen to above 100% (World Bank, 2011).
This dramatic increase in enrollment over a short period put considerable strain on the
government school system. In 1998, the national student–teacher ratio was 28 to 1. In 2011, it
was 47 to 1 (World Bank, 2011). In addition to handling large classes, Kenyan teachers often
deal with space and materials shortages that impair their ability to teach effectively (Sifuna,
2007; UNESCO, 2005). Haiti is a historically bilingual nation, with both Haitian Creole and
French as official languages. However, although all Haitians speak Haitian Creole, some
estimates place the percentage of Haitians who speak French around 10%.1 Because French is
not spoken in many Haitian homes, however, French is necessarily taught as a second language,
with students in the first year of elementary school exposed to French oral language
development. In addition, decades of political turmoil and natural disasters have decimated the
education system. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the high student–teacher ratios, limited teacher
training, and lack of sufficient text materials, reading outcomes for students attending Kenyan
and Haitian primary schools are generally poor, across languages (Bulat; 2014; Piper, 2010). The
results of a series of assessments conducted over recent years converge on a common finding:
children in these countries are not meeting the Ministry of Education’s benchmarks and on
average read far below grade level (Bulat, 2014; Mugo et al., 2011; National Assessment Centre,
2010; Onsomu et al., 2005; Piper, 2010; Piper & Mugenda, 2012; Wasanga, Ogle, & Wambua,
2010). For example, in Kenya, the 2011 national Uwezo study found that just 57% of thirdgraders
could read basic sentences, and only 30% a second-grade-level story (Mugo et al., 2011),
whereas in Haiti a 2014 assessment of Haitian Creole and French literacy found that Grade 2
students read on average fewer than 30 words per minute and had very little comprehension of
what was read (Bulat, 2014).

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