Kenya, a country in East Africa, has made strides in battling poverty by reforming childhood education. In 2003 Kenya established a free primary school education program meant to ensure that young children receive a basic education. However, the Kenyan school system still has challenges to overcome. Teachers often lack proper training and support, and students often do not have enough school supplies. These obstacles ultimately contribute to low learning outcomes for students. Tusome, which means “let’s read” in Kiswahili, is a national literacy program powering childhood learning in Kenya that attempts to address these education shortfalls.
Origins of The Tusome National Literacy Program
Despite previous efforts to improve childhood learning outcomes by the Kenyan government, assessments from the years 2010-2014 showed no significant change in literacy and 40% of primary grade students could not understand their reading material. Tusome was built on this prior research and “was one of the first experiences of taking a piloted literacy program to national scale through government systems.” Tusome is funded by both the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Education and the USAID organization. The program was implemented in January of 2015 and will run until 2020 with a goal of improving reading for 6.7 million students.
Training and Support of Faculty
Two of Tusome’s key goals are to address the need for faculty training and support in the Kenyan school system. Tusome educates teachers, administrators, coaches, and support staff on the Ministry of Education’s expected learning outcomes. The program also provides Curriculum Support Officers that regularly visit schools to coach and monitor teachers in learning outcomes, though these are not professionals trained in general classroom instruction. Youth associations are also working to help to tutor children and develop a reading culture in their area.
School Supplies and Integration of Technology
One of the Tusome program’s notable achievements is that is has provided 26 million textbooks and supplementary materials for primary school students, ensuring that each student has a textbook of their own. Tusome also offers its students tablets with digitized learning materials, which can also provide feedback and progress monitoring for teachers. The performance of each student is uploaded to a cloud-based network system which is meant to promote greater responsibility within the school system.
Tusome has been able to improve teacher support, training and availability of school materials in Kenyan primary schools. This is, in part, due to the integration of technology in the form of digital materials, tablets and cloud-based technology. Learning outcomes have been promising, even in the early pilot phase. In 1,384 schools, children who reached the Tusome standard for an understanding of the English language increased from 8.6% to 43.7%. Overall, Tusome is considered a successful example of large-scale governmental implementation of a national program that can power childhood learning in Kenya, and serve as a model to education systems around the world.
– Joseph Maria