MAJURO, MARSHALL ISLANDS – An Asian Development Bank (ADB)-assisted pilot project with financing from Japan is using an innovative new education tool to boost literacy and numeracy development in the North Pacific.
Results from the first use of the Early Grade Learning Assessment (EGLA) instrument were unveiled by ADB at a presentation during the 29th Pacific Educational Conference, held in Majuro from 28-31 July.
The conference is a biannual event with about 700 participants from the education sector in attendance this year. The new instrument was developed with grant assistance of $1.35 million from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, and was trialed in the ADB-assisted, Quality Primary Education in the North Pacific pilot project.
“Unlike typical standardized tests, the EGLA is a diagnostic tool that gives us detailed information on student performance weaknesses which can be addressed through targeted teacher training and learning resources,” Chimi Thonden, ADB Pacific Department Education Specialist, told the conference.
“Confronting these obstacles to learning in the early grades is critical to enabling more students to succeed through their school career, and the pilot project showed very positive learning results in a short timeframe.”
Pacific Islands have traditionally been oral cultures, with reading and writing playing a less important role, historically, than speaking. Recent assessments of North Pacific Island primary students show that their reading and mathematics proficiencies are below regional Pacific benchmarks.
The EGLA tool was designed to develop and trial new systems of learning, assessment, teacher development, and data management to improve the quality of primary education in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. It incorporates a one-on-one student assessment system, which provides detailed data on where students are at in literacy and numeracy at grades 3 and 5, and it is the only bilingual assessment instrument in the Pacific.
Data generated by the tool is also used to support the professional development of teachers, to identify appropriate learning resources and to build greater collaboration between administrators, teachers and students.
The results of schools in the pilot project show that the percentage of proficient to advanced readers increased by an average of 21% from a baseline level, while advanced numeracy was up 19%. Students who exhibited improved literacy and numeracy skills in their first language, also performed well in English, implying that mastery of the first language is of prime importance.