At PEAS, evidence informs our work. We believe that having the right evidence is vital to understanding what our students need and how to support them. Over the last 15 years, we’ve used internal data, external evaluations and evidence from the wider sector to design and deliver interventions to reduce the barriers faced by our students, but particularly girls, and support them to develop essential skills that set them up for life after school.

How does PEAS use research and evidence to support all our students develop literacy skills?

Our whole-school approach to literacy, and targeted remedial programme, are evidence-based and data-driven. We began our literacy programme through the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), and implemented a range of evidence-based activities to embed literacy across the curriculum. This multi-pronged literacy programme targeted learners’ needs, while generating internal and external evidence to inform future programme design. External evidence from this programme showed a significant positive impact on literacy levels and the development of skills in our learners (GEC, 2017).

We’ve strengthened our approach using external evidence of best practice and successful models from across the world. The content for our literacy-focused lessons, extra-curricular activities and remedial programme is based on analyses of the national curricula in the countries where we operate, and uses key components of literacy to help students achieve reading and writing competence, with a special focus on developing fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. To ensure our approach is accessible and inclusive, we’ve designed our content and trained our teachers using international evidence of gender-responsive pedagogies and PEAS’ evidence-based Top 10 Teaching Practices, a set of ten guiding principles for quality and inclusive teaching.

Our evidence-based approach uses students’ assessments to identify needs. We began in 2015 by adapting both Early Grade Reading Assessments (EGRA)[1] and Secondary Grade Reading Assessments (SEGRA) through consultations with Ugandan English and Maths teachers and an analysis of the national curriculum[3]. We’ve strengthened our literacy assessments by drawing on best practice from Uwezo, an assessment that measures literacy and numeracy competencies among children aged 6-16 in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. We’ve recently used this literacy assessment data to design a blended approach to remedial support – including whole school focus on literacy and targeted group remedial sessions supported by Kolibri, an innovative, low-tech learning software which offers self-paced, targeted learning (for more information, read this blog).

What’s the evidence that our approach is working?

Over the last 15 years, we’ve developed and tested the approaches described above, which evidence shows are driving learning outcomes. We know that our students are more likely to come from poorer backgrounds and make faster learning progress than their peers[4]. And national exam results demonstrate the strength of PEAS’ approach to literacy for all our learners. PEAS learners have received more Division 1-3 grades in Uganda than the national average for five consecutive years. In 2021, PEAS Zambia students outperformed students nationally for the 7th year, by 14 percentage points.

PEAS has built strong external evidence showing our impact and documenting our approaches to strengthening literacy at the secondary level, particularly for girls. External evidence shows that, despite starting as the lowest performing group, girls in PEAS schools improved their “word per minute” scores more than control schools over three years of our Girls’ Education Challenge programme (GEC, 2017). More recently, an external evaluation showed that 75% of students are receiving literacy classes, and that engaging in these classes is significantly linked to the development of girls’ reading and writing skills (GEC-T, 2021). Our girls receive targeted support through Senior Women Teachers (SWT), who are trained to oversee the physical and emotional welfare of our female students, and counsel girls on gender-specific issues. External evidence shows that engaging with SWTs increased girls’ odds of developing reading and writing skills by 264% (GEC-T, 2021).

How are we using evidence to change education systems from the ground up?

We believe all students deserve the opportunity to develop essential skills, not just students at PEAS schools. That’s why we use the tools, resources and experience we’ve built up after 15 years of running some of the best secondary schools in Uganda and Zambia to provide support to other schools and governments. To ensure that as many young people as possible benefit from our approaches, we share evidence from our network and partnership schools and work closely with governments to support wider change in the system.

 

If you’re interested in finding out more about PEAS’ Literacy Approach is sustainable and replicable, read this blog or contact info@peas.org.uk. If you would like to support our work empowering students, in particular girls, with essential skills please contact partnerships@peas.org.uk

 

[1] EGRA is a globally tested and widely used tool designed to measure and compare literacy levels of early grade students in primary schools.

[2] SEGRA is a globally tested and widely used tool designed to measure and compare literacy levels of secondary school students.

[3] Jigsaw (2018) DFID Girls’ Education Challenge Transition Project: Baseline Report. Available at: https://www.peas.org.uk/resources/dfid-girls-education-challenge-transition-project-baseline-report/

[4] EPRC (2018) Evaluation of the PEAS network under the Uganda Universal Secondary Education (USE) Programme. Available at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5bb62f04a0cd2750983df97c/t/5beaa25b352f537a54ca8be8/1542103666065/PEAS_Endline_Final_Report__March_16__2018.pdf

 

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