Reading skills of Kenyan pupils improving at unprecedented rates

New evaluation of Tusome national early-grade reading program shows significant gains

Nairobi, June 20, 2017 – A newly released evaluation of the Tusome national reading program found that Kenyan children’s ability to read in English and Kiswahili has significantly improved since 2015. The KES 7.3 billion ($73 million) program, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), was developed through rigorous research, piloting, and broad national consultation led by the Government of Kenya Ministry of Education (MOE).

Tusome (“let’s read” in Kiswahili) has trained 98 percent of Class 1 and 2 teachers and developed, designed and distributed more than 20 million books in an effort to improve the reading skills of approximately 5.4 million learners in public schools nationwide.

The evaluation, released online last week, found that 47 percent of Class 2 pupils met the national benchmark for English fluency in 2016, up from 12 percent in 2015. It also showed a significant increase in the proportion of Class 1 children who could read words in Kiswahili – from only 30 percent in 2015 to 55 percent in 2016.

“Not surprisingly, education experts across the world are looking to Kenya as Tusome is showing overwhelmingly positive results in every primary school in the country,” said USAID Kenya and East Africa Mission Director Karen Freeman during the launch of the evaluation results. “This level of scale, effectiveness and sustainability is rare in the developing world.”

Through Tusome, MOE officials are tracking reading results in every school in the country. Real-time evaluation coupled with regular classroom observations, continuous training and coaching, and well-designed learning materials contributes to the program’s success.