The DRC faces severe challenges in educating young children. Access to schooling is limited; the primary school enrollment rate is only about 60 percent. Nearly 20 percent drop out in their first year. Also, nearly a third of government teachers go unpaid, contributing to a high rate of teacher absenteeism and children sitting idle in the classroom. Rising to meet these challenges, the Ministry of Education and EDC, with funding from USAID, introduced a program to improve primary education: the Project d’Amélioration de la Qualité de l’Education (PAQUED).
Between 2009 and 2014, the program reached 3,000 primary schools, 30,000 teachers and 1.2 million students. In the belief that the quality of teaching is essential to improving reading performance, PAQUED aimed to focus on teachers, their understanding of the literacy needs of students, and their skills in applying effective techniques in the classroom. This practice-based approach was addressed through EDC’s Read Right Now! literacy program.
Read Right Now! revolves around “Four Rs” for teachers: Respect, Routines, Resources, and Support for Risk-taking, and focuses on helping teachers understand how students learn to read and write and building teacher confidence to embellish and sustain new instructional methods.
The program had a profound impact on teachers’ knowledge of reading and writing instruction, and by default on student performance. Grade 1 students in PAQUED significantly outperformed students in control schools, and a good proportion of grade 2 students, after only one year of the program, were able to attain or surpass the DRC’s grade 3 French fluency benchmark.
In 2014-15, the same grade 1 and 2 teachers participated in a 6-month intervention that showed how the Read Right Now! approach had been internalized in the PAQUED schools and transferred from French to national language (Lingala). An evaluation revealed that, in the absence of intensive coaching and support, teachers had been able to continue applying the instructional routines and using the materials on their own. Teachers also continued to support each other, and student reading results were significantly better than control counterparts in both languages and across all skills.
“When programs view teachers as assets and embrace them as part of the solution, we are able to quickly realize concrete results,” said EDC’s Susan Ross, PAQUED project director. “We can support teachers themselves to carry forward ongoing improvement, supporting each other and reflecting and learning together.”