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Phonics and Foreign Aid: Lessons from a Decade of USAID Early-grade Reading Evaluations


Justin Sandefur, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development


Benjamin Piper, Director, Global Education Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Allyson Wainer, Director, Center for Education, USAID


Erin Collinson, Director, Policy Outreach, Center for Global Development

Over the past twenty years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has refined a package of support for early-grade reading, sometimes referred to as “structured pedagogy,” which has been heralded as one of the most cost-effective ways to improve learning outcomes in the developing world. The agency has also set a global standard for rigorous, mandatory, independent evaluations of all its major activities -- producing dozens of randomized trials and quasi-experimental evaluations of early-grade reading programs around the world.

In this seminar, a team of researchers at CGD and others present new analysis of USAID's evaluation portfolio, quantifying the impacts on pupils' reading outcomes and examining the cost-effectiveness of American aid. The presentation is followed by a discussion of policy implications and broader lessons for the agency and the education sector.

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