Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Pre-school literacy crucial to end global learning crisis

A new report lunched by Save the Children underlines the critical role pre-school literacy has on the development of children and their future in education.

The report entitled “Lessons in Literacy: 8 Principles to Ensure Every Last Child Can Read” draws on evidence from 2012-2015, during which Save the Children tracked 35 literacy programs across 22 countries, gathering data and evidence in order to identify best practices.

The programs included Save the Children in Ethiopia’s program in early literacy, both in early childhood education and primary levels in Afar, South Omo, West Oromia and Tigray. The report also presents factors which are important to ensure children learn to read across multiple countries and contexts including Ethiopia.

“We need to track the progress of children, especially with the humanitarian crisis that the country has been and continues to face, the rate of children that have dropped out of school has been significant. We need to work to make sure that children stay in school,” said John Graham, Country Director of Save the Children, speaking at the launching of the report. He further stated that, while the focus on access to school has been very important, now it is also time to focus on the quality of education that is being given.

According to UNESCO and other international institutions, the fact that access to education has been prioritized over educational quality, has led to a global learning crisis. According to data, due to this fact, 250 million children are left behind, 130 million of whom cannot read despite completing four years of education.

In Ethiopia, the Ministry of Education says it is using  a vision of building an education and training system that assures quality and equity education, to realize the vision of producing competent citizens as a result of the education system by 2020.

“Early Childhood Care and Education is done of the priorities for the Ministry as it forms the foundation of what we would like to achieve by 2020,” said Eshetu Cheru, Director of Planning and Resource Mobilization at the Ministry of Education.

Still, the country suffers from several challenges that might make this vision a reality by the given time frame. Challenges such as lack of well trained teachers, low number of classrooms that are available as well as lack of materials are some of the issues.

The report shows that if all children in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, 171million people could be lifted out of poverty, equivalent to a 12 percent reduction in poverty worldwide.

Furthermore, it points out that the ability to read is positively associated with better health, higher income and economic growth, and exercise of rights. “Enabling every child to read will help tackle inequities by ensuring that regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, disability or socio-economic background, every child starts out with a basic skill-set with which to take on life’s challenges,” it reads.