By Karim Muhammad Khan
The USAID funded Pakistan Reading Project was launched in 2013 with the collaboration of government education department to improve reading skills of children as it was surfaced in ASER Survey findings that students were found very weak in reading skills as well as in mathematics at primary level. According to the survey report half of the students from class five could not read class two level texts in Urdu and in English, only 43 per cent of the surveyed class five students could read sentences which should ideally be read by students from grade-II. To improve Urdu reading skills of children in government schools the USAID funded PRP has set the target to reach out 1.3 million G.I and II students and to train 23,800 teachers and to provide 3,161 scholarships across Pakistan.
Initially at four districts in GB, the project team carried out interventions in 468 schools where 737 teachers were trained in Urdu at G.I & II levels during two years duration of its active phase. Principals of PRP intervention schools were also oriented with the project’s mission, executing strategies and mechanism in order to provide conducive learning environment for PRP classes in their respective schools.
Further, 96 Teacher Inquiry Group (TIG) meetings were conducted at cluster High School on monthly basis and lesson observation was carried out by TIG subject specialist teachers with prompt feedback. Next, the aforementioned schools and teachers were also given relevant and interesting materials and resources like tablets, teacher’s guide, story books, big books, workbooks and flash cards in order to be helpful in teaching learning processes and procedures.
Beside, the implementation strategies in PRP intervention schools remained very successful in many ways. For instance, in TIG meeting all PRP teachers used to gather at cluster level High School led by the PRP district level academic coordinator and the purpose of these meetings was to share experiences, success stories and bottle necks from their respective classes and exchanged feedback with each other in order to bridge the learning gaps in Urdu reading components i.e print concept, phonetic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, reading comprehension and writing to learn.
Another, exciting technique was to teach children through body languages, rhyming words, writing in the air, reading with rhythm by clapping and clicking as this strategy stimulated children’s interest and passion in the lesson. In addition, the achievement of PRP in government schools was realized in private schools as their students requested PRP trained teachers for home tuition after school hours for learning Urdu and this project is indeed a successful model.
In addition, according to PRP report in phase-1 nearly7154 boys and 7933 girls making all together 15087 children at G.I & II level from four districts in GB have benefited from the project so far. For example, Students’ learning outcomes have been improved to a greater extent both qualitatively and quantitatively as known by the external and internal evaluations on specific assessment tools. However, there are some variations from school to school in terms of students’ academic achievements in Urdu reading skills.
Nevertheless, the finding of students’ assessment has revealed a huge difference between pre and post PRP interventions. In post PRP intervention, nearly eighty percent children from the schools at G-I & II level now can easily read even higher grade level texts and it is indeed the result of hardworking on the part of key stakeholders from local government education department, PRP’s top management and its implementation team along with teachers and principals from the field.
Finally the active phase of PRP intervention in some district of GB has been completed and to sustain and retain the changes in the intervention schools, government education department along with NGOs should not only carry on their activities but can also replicate them in other schools of GB by providing continuous professional development opportunities with workable monitoring and evaluation mechanism in place. Last but not least, such intervention is also needed to enhance children’s learning outcomes in English, Math and Science curriculum as well.