September 8th is International Literacy Day, which reminds us of the importance of literacy for both academic success and positive life outcomes.
Despite progress toward universal literacy, significant challenges persist. In Cambodia, for example, USAID reports that only 32% of girls and 38% of boys in Grade 3 are literate in Khmer, the national language. World Education is working with RTI to improve literacy in Cambodia through the USAID-funded All Children Learning project. World Education is piloting the first province-wide rollout of the government’s newly created early-grade reading package of teaching and learning materials, teacher professional development materials, and a literacy coaching model. In Kampong Thom Province, World Education trains and oversees 52 literacy coaches who visit, observe, and provide feedback to more than 400 Grade 1 teachers every 10 days.
Ms. Kong Yary is one of World Education’s literacy coaches in Kampong Thom province. Each morning she leaves her house at 6:20 and rides her motorbike to her office at Kokoh Primary School, where she spends a few minutes preparing for her visits. She then gets back on her motorbike and heads to the first school on her schedule, which, on a recent day, is Chong Da Primary School.
When Ms. Kong arrives, she walks to Ms. Yorng Sim’s Grade 1 classroom and finds a seat at the back. Ms. Kong observes the Khmer language lesson and takes notes on a tablet.
When the class is finished, Ms. Kong randomly selects four students to join her outside. She asks them to complete a series of tasks to see how well they have understood the lesson and whether or not they can apply the skills they have just learned.
Next, Ms. Kong and Ms. Yorng find a quiet place to sit. Ms. Kong goes over her notes, they reflect on what went well, and draw up an action plan with steps to help Ms. Yorng improve her teaching.
Ms. Kong then hops back on her motorbike and heads to another school, where she repeats the process: observe, assess, provide feedback. She completes three such cycles each day.
Once her visits are completed, Ms. Kong returns to her office. She spends the remainder of the day posting her notes to the server, writing reports, and checking in with the teachers who she will visit the following day. When everything is in order, Ms. Kong gets back on her motorbike, this time heading for home. It is a long day, but Ms. Kong enjoys supporting teachers and students. Since taking the position, Ms. Kong has seen improvement in the students’ reading and confidence, and the teachers with whom she works welcome the attention and professional support.
Today, on International Literacy Day, we celebrate the literacy coaches, teachers, school directors, and others who recognize the importance of child literacy and continue to support early-grade reading interventions like All Children Reading in Cambodia and around the world.