Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on December 19 began a new project in partnership with Senegal's Ministry of Education to improve the reading and math skills of thousands of primary school students in Senegal.
The Partnership to Improve Elementary Reading and Math will work directly with the ministry as well as other partners, including the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education, and additional bilateral donors France, Canada and Japan.
The three-year, $18 million project, USAID said, will improve reading and math classroom instruction, strengthen school monitoring and student learning assessments at the local and national levels, and increase research and evaluation capacity within the ministry. The partnership also supports efforts to decentralize the education system by putting school districts and individual schools at the center of the project.
"Reading and mathematics are powerful tools for learning and cognitive development," USAID Mission Director in Senegal Henderson Patrick said at the launch. "Reading is an immeasurably important portal of knowledge and discovery, and it's the foundation of all learning."
Joseph Pierre Ndieye, Cabinet director at the Ministry of Education, said that, according to Minister Serigne Mbaye Thiam, the overarching theme of the project is "to know how to read and calculate, to build and rebuild the world." He added that the benefits of such programs require time to take effect, and that close and responsible management is needed throughout the course of the project.
Local ownership is a central component of the partnership. By improving the skills and techniques of educators and administrators at individual schools and districts, USAID is promoting the delivery of high-quality services at the local level, the agency said.
In consultation with international experts, project partners are also building consensus on a countrywide plan that establishes a national reading agenda. This approach aligns with the goals of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, USAID said, and the agency's reform agenda under USAID Forward.
USAID Forward was announced by the agency in 2010 as an effort to make the agency more effective by changing the way it partners with others, embracing a spirit of innovation and strengthening the results of programs, saving money and reducing the need for U.S. assistance over time. The initiative focuses on three areas: building local sustainability and partnerships; fostering innovation; and strengthening the agency's capacity to deliver results.
"By bringing the government educational system together with multiple donor partners including civil society at the local level, I am confident we can go far in improving the quality of primary education," USAID's Patrick said.