Do programmes outside the formal education system improve children’s literacy in developing countries?

April 13, 2016
East Asia and Pacific (includes South East Asia), South Asia, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa (includes East and West Africa), Latin America and the Caribbean


For a majority of children globally, the substantial increase in access to primary schooling has not led to a significant improvement in learning. To address this learning gap, numerous programmes are being implemented outside the formal education system to improve children’s literacy. 

A recent 3ie-funded systematic review examined the effectiveness of programmes that are aimed at parents, families and communities for improving children’s literacy in low- and middle-income countries. The reviewers assessed the effectiveness of educational television, interventions that show parents how to support their children’s readiness for school, and interventions that use a tutoring approach involving peers or adult community members. 

This review synthesised findings from 13 quantitative studies, which examined interventions implemented in Armenia, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Yemen.

Main findings: 

  • Educational television, when viewed three to five days a week over four months, had a positive effect on the literacy of children of pre-primary school age.
  • Interventions that showed parents how to develop their child’s readiness for school were found not to be effective overall.
  • There is no rigorous evidence available on the effectiveness of several kinds of supplementary interventions, such as community libraries, reading clubs, local language publishing, electronic readers and laptops intended for use outside school, religious instruction, and community mobilisation. 


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