Since the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, there have been rapid increases in school enrollment around the world, but despite these advances, many countries still face a learning crisis (UNESCO, 2013). Approximately 250 million children worldwide are unable to read a single word, even after attending school for several years (World Development Report, 2018). In Laos in particular, only 8% of students in Grade 3 and about one-half the children in Grade 5 read with high levels of comprehension, and the percentage of nonreaders was significantly higher for non-Lao-speaking children.
While there are several reasons for this learning crisis, one is that millions of children are educated in languages they do not understand (UNICEF, 2016; World Development Report, 2018), presenting a major challenge to effective learning. If children are taught in language(s) they speak and understand, and their linguistic skills are appropriately harnessed, language is one of the most significant resources for effective learning (August & Shanahan, 2006; Alidou, Boly, Brock-Utne, Diallo, Heugh, & Wolff, 2006). Another reason is the lack of effective, yet simple, pedagogies and teacher-learner interactions that can used in contexts of limited resources and training. Studies have shown that programs that most effectively address these learning issues are those that focus on the “teacher-learner interaction” (Evans & Popova, 2016; World Development Report, 2018) and teaching students at their level (World Development Report, 2017).
To address these critical gaps, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) developed, implemented, and evaluated the Child Literacy Development (CLD) pilot project in two districts in Laos for the 2017–18 school year. This report describes both the conceptual development of the toolkit and the results of a qualitative evaluation of the toolkit’s usability, implementation fidelity, and perceived impact.