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Improving Malawi’s National Reading Program


  • Malawi needs help strengthening its primary school reading assessment system.
  • Abt is developing classroom-level reading assessments and a remediation methodology.
  • Abt is implementing a national reading assessment to measure impact.
The Challenge

Since school fees were eliminated in 1994, enrollment in Malawi schools has increased dramatically to near 100 percent—with more than 100 students assigned to some teachers. Unfortunately, the quality and volume of educational resources has not kept pace with enrollment, and recent assessments have shown dramatic deficits in students’ early grade reading skills. To address this challenge, the Malawi government is implementing its National Reading Program to improve early grade literacy outcomes, but needs assistance in strengthening its reading assessment system for primary schools.

The Approach

Abt provides technical support and training to Malawi’s Ministry of Education (MoE) to strengthen its ability to administer national reading assessments (NRAs) that will better identify gaps in students’ knowledge and inform education policy. Abt is modernizing the MoE’s NRA data management by digitizing results and linking the data to its online education management information system (EMIS). This system streamlines NRA data consolidation and allows reports to be more accessible to parents, local community members, teachers and MoE staff.

To support literacy teaching and learning in the classroom, Abt also is developing a remediation methodology and classroom level reading assessment tools that allow teachers to quickly identify the reading skills of the students in their classroom. They can then use that information to provide targeted, student-led remediation activities that will further the students’ literacy skill development.

To ensure that all students benefit from this work, Abt has teamed with stakeholders who bring expertise in disability inclusion. For example, USAID’s Yesani Ophunzira Activity (YESA) has helped us produce educational materials in large print and braille, with the support of the Malawi Union for the Blind. We also collaborated with the Reading for All Malawi (REFAM) project to ensure all assessments and systems are free of bias and stereotypes as they relate to disability.

The Results

Abt will train all standard 1 – 4 teachers (approximately 46,000 teachers) and primary school administrators/head teachers (approximately 5,600 directors) in Malawi to use the classroom reading assessments and remediation activities developed for the National Reading Program.

The impact of these inputs will be measured through the NRA data collected every two years.