In 2012, World Education, Inc. (WEI) was awarded a grant to implement the innovative Total Reading Approach for Children (TRAC) project (October 2012-September 2014) under the All Children Reading Grand Challenge, a consortium of donors including USAID, World Vision, and Australian Aid. The backdrop for TRAC came as a result of a World Bank assessment in 2010 that found disappointing reading achievement scores on a national test administered in Khmer Language: According to the test results, as many as 54% of tested children were not able to demonstrate expected reading skills at the Grade 1 level. Based on these findings, Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) developed new readers for grades 1-3. The newness of these textbooks provided a prime opportunity for WEI to work with the MoEYS to support the implementation of the new curricula.
Under the TRAC project, WEI worked closely with the MoEYS to improve reading outcomes of Grade 1 and 2 students in Cambodia using an integrated approach that includes various innovative interventions:
- Reading Benchmarks: WEI collaborated with the MoEYS to create a reading benchmark system for the new national reading curriculum. The first time such benchmarks have been created in Cambodia, they include specific tasks and skills that students should master at designated intervals. The benchmarks include regular interval assessments, which allow teachers to identify struggling students and provide timely, targeted support. These benchmarks have been now been fully endorsed by the MoEYS
- Literacy Coaches: TRAC selected and trained school-based literacy coaches, the first time such a position has been created in Cambodian schools. These coaches help teachers administer the benchmark assessments and the Rapid Response System interventions. They also act as the liaison between schools and parents.
- Rapid Response System: Literacy coaches implement the project’s Rapid Response System (RRS) after identifying struggling students through the benchmark assessments. The RRS includes parental engagement, peer tutoring, a reading toolkit, and an mLearning application. The toolkit and mLearning application are aligned with the national curriculum and TRAC reading benchmark system. The mLearning application is the first Khmer language education app for primary grades.
TRAC Project Outcomes
After successfully achieving over 90% of the project’s performance indicators during the course of the project, it is safe to conclude that the TRAC project was highly successful. The project developed a holistic approach with a diversified set of activities that involved various stakeholders, including parents, teachers, school directors, literacy coaches, and community members. TRAC was able to empirically demonstrate statistically significant changes in students’ reading scores from baseline values both within treatment schools and in comparison to control schools. Furthermore, the project developed significant products that will greatly enhance educational quality in Cambodian schools: These include the development of the reading benchmark system for Grades 1 and 2, protocols for a Rapid Response System to promote continuous assessment linked to remedial responses, an mLearning literacy app linked to the national curriculum, and a Reading Toolkit. The MoEYS has approved and adopted the model, charting a clear path for replicating the TRAC model in additional schools.
Key results from the project are highlighted below:
- 87 teachers completed in-service training and/or received intensive coaching with USG support.
- 94% of TRAC teachers utilized the project’s Rapid Response System to provided targeted reading interventions to struggling students.
- 100% of TRAC Literacy Coaches correctly used activity protocols according to Rapid Response System implementation criteria.
- 3% of parents reported improved parental engagement in their children’s education due to TRAC.
- 160 mobile devices (and accompanying furniture and safes for storage) were provided to eight TRAC target schools to incorporate technology into the learning process.
- TRAC provided 1,908 textbooks and learning materials to eight target schools.
- There were statistically significant improvements in reading scores from baseline values both within treatment schools and in comparison to a number of control schools.
- The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport provided government approval and adoption of the reading benchmark and assessment system developed under TRAC.
Due to the successful completion of the TRAC pilot project, WEI is further expanding TRAC interventions through two current projects:
- Technology for Education Systems Transformation (TEST): Using the tablets provided to schools under the TRAC project, the TEST project has worked closely with a local app developer to digitize and automate TRAC’s benchmark assessment system. Rather than taking the benchmarks assessments on paper, students will take the assessments on an app. The app automatically scores the assessments, identifies students who are struggling, and suggests interventions from the Rapid Response System for the struggling students. Teachers, literacy coaches, and librarians can then administer the Rapid Response System interventions. The app will help improve consistency in administration and validity of test data. TEST is currently piloting the app in 10 schools and expects to roll out the app to additional schools following the pilot and final software adjustments. TEST is funded by USAID’s Development Innovations Project.
- Total Reading Approach for Children Plus (TRAC+): Funded by World Vision, TRAC+ is expanding the core TRAC interventions from the eight pilot schools to 170 schools in Beantey Meanchey, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, and Takeo provinces. In addition to the core TRAC interventions, under TRAC+ WEI will also develop reading benchmarks for Grade 3, pilot reading interventions for Grade 4-6 students, and provide capacity building support to World Vision staff.