Worldreader, a global education technology (edtech) non-profit that supports parents, schools, and organisations with free mobile reading services that improve children’s education, has intensified its efforts at deepening early child reading in the country.
With statistics indicating that globally, over 64 percent of 10-year-olds cannot read and understand a simple story, and only about 30 percent of grade three students have foundational reading skills, as well as sub-Saharan Africa far behind, Worldreader is committed to significantly influencing these statistics.
It has been identified that often, the main cause of low primary school reading performance is the delay in reading. It is therefore essential to invest from early childhood and at home and create a family reading habit.
Outlining a few of Ghana’s challenges to early grade learning – such as only seven percent of grade three children (three to 12 years) with foundational reading skills, only seven percent of homes with children’s books, 1:30 teacher-pupil ratio at the primary school level, and a four percent of GDP budget spent on education against the six percent goal – the edtech organisation has initiated some measures to mitigate the situation.
“Most poor families don’t have books at home, and lack of access limits changing behaviours. The ability to decode, process and understand texts is key to human and social development,” said West Africa Director of Programmes, Leslie Tettey.
The Worldreader is implementing projects and programmes, including a pilot project to integrate digital reading in pre-service and in-service kindergarten teacher training, providing a ‘BookSmart Tab’ pilot in 15 schools for later scale-up, and assisting 200 families, a literacy advocacy project.
According to the Director of Education – World Bank, Jaime Saavedra, technology has great equity potential; it helps scale up hybrid learning and supports personalised and tailored learning for all.
Ghana’s mobile digital skills
The main use of the Internet is social connection and entertainment, and people are often unaware that mobile Internet provides a potential solution to their needs.
Barriers, such as perceptions of data cost and mobile devices, limit digital skills acquisition. As users progress in their usage, they build transferable skills for other mobile services and electronic devices, leading to changes in users’ preferences and strategies as they progress.
Ghana’s uncertain environment
The country’s early childhood learning environment is uncertain as early home stimulation is said to be low at 36 percent. While early childhood education (ECE) attendance is 71 percent, Internet school access is eight percent, coupled with high mobile penetration disparities between urban and rural areas.
A unique approach
Worldreader seeks to approach the reading crisis in a unique, comprehensive and scalable way, applying its Apps, Books, Capacity-building, Data and Engagement (ABCDE) model.
The organisation encourages and supports reading everywhere: homes, schools, libraries and clubs, and will be introducing a full new BookSmart app in September – a progressive web application (PWA), which is described as a reading buddy to help guide readers through reading with tips, hints and suggestions.
Worldreder is seeking to work with local publishers to curate and develop engaging and inspiring reading content, partner with public and private organisations to give access and distribute content to families and children, as well as support and motivate families and children to read frequently to build their reading comprehension, digital literacy, and social-emotional learning.
This will ensure children will have better educational outcomes and higher earnings potentials.
In 2021 and 2022, over 4,313 Ghanaian families, children and teachers actively read on BookSmart. The app features international and local authors like Barbara Baddoo, Adwoa Badoe, Meshack Asare, Kwesi Otopah, and Peggy Appiah, among others.
Ghana’s commitment to education and innovation
The government has committed to increasing the public expenditure budget for education from 16 percent to 23 percent by 2025, implementing education system reforms to improve learning outcomes, reduce inequalities and expand teacher capacity development.
Others include the implementation of the Communities of Excellence Programme (CEP) to enhance community education engagement, with a focus on literacy; and the Ghana education outcomes project (GEOP) to improve learning outcomes for children across primary schools.
If the government is able to implement these initiatives effectively, the partnership with Worldreader would significantly change the country’s early child reading status.
These remarks were made at the Worldreader media engagement held in Accra in partnership with Strategic Communications Africa (Stratcomm Africa).