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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Improving Reading Outcomes in Kenya: First-Year Effects of the PRIMR Initiative.
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
URL http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED562806.pdf
School fees were abolished in Kenya in 2003. Since that time, gross primary enrollment rates
have risen above 100% (World Bank, 2011). This dramatic increase in enrollment over a short
period put considerable strain on the government school system, which did not receive funding
increases commensurate with the enrollment increases. 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).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the high student–teacher ratios, limited teacher training, and lack
of sufficient text materials, reading outcomes for students attending Kenyan primary schools are
generally poor. The results of a series of assessments conducted over the decade since fee
abolition converge on a common finding: Kenyan children are not meeting the Ministry of
Education’s benchmarks and on average read far below grade level (Mugo et al., 2011; National
Assessment Centre, 2010; Onsomu et al., 2005; Piper, 2010; Piper & Mugenda, 2012; Wasanga,
Ogle, & Wambua, 2010). For example, the 2011 national Uwezo study found that just 57% of
third-graders could read basic sentences, and only 30% a second-grade-level story (Mugo et al.,

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