Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) 62nd Annual Conference
March 25-29, Mexico City
2018 Theme: “Re—Mapping Global Education – South-North Dialogue”
Title: Impact of Literacy Interventions in Developing Countries: A Meta-Analysis
Authors: Young-Suk Kim, Hansol Lee, Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski (FSU)
The purpose of this study was to review literacy interventions in developing countries and estimate their effects on literacy skills, using a meta-analytic approach. Being able to read and write is the most basic foundation of learning and career. Not surprisingly, great efforts have been expended in the last decade on improving literacy skills for children in developing countries as a way to achieve children’s learning outcomes, aligned with the UNESCO’s Millennium Development Goals and great needs identified in key documents (e.g., Gove & Cvelich, 2010). A recent comprehensive review of extant evidence (Landscape Report of Early Grade Literacy, 2016) has reported an overall positive effect of literacy interventions in developing countries but large variation of effects depending on the literacy outcomes and contexts. The Landscape Report, however, did not estimate effect sizes. In the present study, we conducted a meta-analysis, reviewing available empirical evidence and estimating effect sizes for various literacy outcomes.
This paper used the theoretical framework described in the Landscape Report of Early Grade Literacy (2016) as well as the National Reading Panel (2000), and examined literacy skills in different aspects such as emergent literacy skills (or prereading skills), lexical level literacy skills (word reading), and discourse level skills (reading fluency, reading comprehension).
This study used a meta-analytic approach. A total of 3828 papers were found in various search engine and sources (e.g., USAID), and were screened for inclusion. To be included in the analyses, studies must have: 1) been published in English, although the primary language of the sample could be different from English; 2) been published between 2000 to 2017; 3) used randomized controlled trial or quasi-experimental design; 4) reading skills were measured using quantitative tasks. In total, 69 studies (N = 255,387) met these criteria and were included in the data analyses.
Results revealed that an overall effect size of literacy interventions in developing countries was positive and medium with Cohen’s d of .35. However, results varied largely for different literacy outcomes with the following average effect sizes: .47 for emergent literacy skills (letter knowledge, phonological awareness, print awareness); .33 for word reading; .31 for passage reading including reading fluency; .23 for reading comprehension; .22 for oral language (vocabulary, syntax, listening comprehension).
To our knowledge, this is the first study, using a meta-analysis, that provides estimates of effect sizes of literacy interventions in developing countries and systematically examined how effect sizes vary for different reading skills. The results indicate that explicit and systematic literacy instruction yields a moderate, positive effect size in developing countries. However, the results also indicate larger effect sizes for early reading skills (i.e., emergent literacy skills and word reading) than for higher-level, ultimate goal of reading instruction, reading comprehension or oral language. The results provide critical information about future directions in literacy interventions in developing countries.