Kyrgyz Teachers Take New Approach to Reading Instruction

Trainings for trainers, Chui region, August 2014
A training for trainers session, Chui region, August 2014
Save the Children
Following assessment, new standards and interactive techniques in place
“Now I realize that I simply did not know how to make these lessons more interesting and effective.”

April 2015—Although the Kyrgyz Republic has a very high elementary school attendance rate, the quality of education remains a challenging issue, particularly the quality of reading skills of elementary school students.

Only 26 percent of teachers in the Kyrgyz Republic use effective and innovative methods for teaching reading, and only 10 percent of students in grades 1 and 2, and 1 percent of students in grade 4 meet the country’s national basic reading requirements, according to a recent assessment.

In April of last year, USAID conducted an Early Grade Reading Assessment in 130 schools in the Kyrgyz Republic. Earlier in the year, the USAID Reading Together project developed the national basic reading requirements. The findings are troubling, especially because poor reading skills negatively influence student success in all other school subjects and considerably limit their ability to obtain new knowledge.

To address these challenges, USAID developed 10 in-service teacher training modules focused on modern methods for teaching reading skills in elementary school. The modules were developed in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Kyrgyz Academy of Education.

During summer 2014, the first group of over 2,800 teachers in 617 schools were trained on using the modules in their classrooms. Together, these teachers are responsible for teaching over 143,000 elementary students across the country.

In the months following the training, the project team visited several schools to monitor how effectively the teachers were using new methods. The training proved transformative for many teachers, inspiring them to be more creative when designing lesson plans.

“At the beginning of the training, the teachers were complaining that they already know how to teach reading,” says Tatiana Kuznetsova, a teacher and deputy director at secondary school 15 in Bishkek, who serves as the project mentor to primary grade teachers in her school. “However, after trying out the methods and materials suggested by the project, the teachers changed their attitude. The teachers are now determined to master all the methods suggested ... they constantly approach me with questions.”

Thanks to the new skills she learned during the USAID training, Nurjamal Kurbanova, a primary grade teacher in the Jala-Abad region, was selected the 2015 Teacher of the Year in her village area. Kurbanova has been teaching for 20 years and took part in the teacher competition twice before, but did not win.

A major part of the competition is a lesson observed by the selection committee and fellow teachers. This time, Kurbanova applied the reading instruction techniques she learned during the USAID training.

“This project helps me to appreciate myself, my work at the school. In addition, I understand that I can do a great job for my students,” says Kurbanova. “During the competition, I wanted to show the new methods to my colleagues so that they can also use them.” 

Bermet Amanatova, another participant of teacher trainings, says, “I have never liked reading lessons. I thought there was nothing to do during these lessons other than reading and retelling the texts. Now I realize that I simply did not know how to make these lessons more interesting and effective. The trainings helped me understand how to assess and develop my students’ reading skills using interactive techniques and exercises proposed in the teacher manual.”

In winter and spring 2015, the project will train two more groups in order to reach approximately 7,500 teachers who collectively teach 60 percent of the Kyrgyz Republic’s primary grade students. To monitor the effectiveness of new methods and materials used by the teachers, USAID will conduct the Early Grade Reading Assessment on a regular basis.

The Reading Together project runs from July 2013 to June 2017. The new reading standards, the teacher modules and the assessment tool create a solid foundation for improving the reading skills of the new generation in the Kyrgyz Republic.


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