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3ie-LIDC Seminar: Improving early grade reading in South Africa: Lessons from a government-led randomised control trial

Monday, September 4, 2017 - 12:30 to 14:00
LIDC Upper Meeting Room
Dr. Stephen Taylor & Jacobus Cilliers, South African Department of Basic Education

This seminar was part of the 3ie-LIDC seminar series ‘What works in international development’. In each seminar one or two researchers present their results of impact evaluations, systematic review or methodological contribution followed by discussion and questions. The seminar is usually held on Wednesday evenings (with some exceptions), between 5.30pm and 7pm and is hosted by LIDC or one of its member colleges in central London (Bloomsbury).

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The Early Grade Reading Study is a 3ie-funded randomised experiment being undertaken in South Africa. Three alternative interventions to improve reading acquisition in the home language are being evaluated. After two years of implementation, a structured learning programme consisting of lesson plans aligned to the official curriculum is showing the largest impact on reading outcomes, but only when supported by on-site coaching rather than by centralised teacher training workshops. All three interventions appear effective in urban settings but not in deep rural settings. This paper discusses the mechanisms driving differential effects and reflects on challenges and opportunities in government-led evaluations.


Dr. Stephen Taylor is the Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation in the South African Department of Basic Education.  He has been a Principal Investigator on several evaluations, including the Early Grade Reading Study. His academic work focuses on impact evaluation of education interventions, measuring educational performance and equity in educational outcomes.  In 2010 he completed a PhD in economics at the University of Stellenbosch, analysing the role of education in South Africa’s economic development.