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Afghan Children Reading (ACR) was a USAID reading program implemented in Afghanistan from 2016 to 2021. In 2017, a baseline Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) was conducted.

This EGR Barometer data represents the 2018 midline EGRA, which was only conducted with grade 2 students in the Heart province in Dari. The socio-political situation in Nangarhar and Langham provinces at the time impeded the data collection for Pashto language.

EGRA Subtasks

An EGRA measures children’s pre-reading and reading skills. The subtasks used in this assessment are described below.

Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)

The oral reading fluency (ORF) subtask measures how quickly and accurately a student can read. It is a core component of EGRA because it brings together lower-level reading skills (such as decoding and familiar word recognition) with how quickly and easily the student can read a given word (called automaticity).

Students were given a short, written passage (66 words) on a topic that was familiar to them. They were asked to read it out loud “quickly but carefully” and were given 60 seconds from when they begin to read. The EGRA administrator timed the student, making note of any mistakes the student made while reading the words aloud. The score is reported as correct words per minute (cwpm).

Syllable Sounds

The syllable identification subtask tests students’ ability to recognize syllables.

The students were presented with a grid of syllables and asked to pronounce as many of the syllables’ sounds as possible. The EGRA administrator timed the child and recorded the number of correct syllable sounds per minute (cspm).


The nonword subtask tests students’ skill in using letter-sound connections to figure out (“decode”) words. While many students learn to memorize a broad range of "sight" words, they need skills to decode less-familiar words.

In this subtask, students were given a list of 50 made-up words that do not exist in the language tested but follow a typical spelling/sound combination of the language. This ensures that the student is not recognizing the whole word and must “sound-out” the non-word in order to correctly read it. The student asked to read out loud as many as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could. The EGRA administrator timed the student and recorded the number of correct words per minute (cnwpm).

Familiar Words

The familiar word reading subtask is similar in format to the nonword reading subtask except that it presents the student with a grid containing 50 words they are expected to be able to read at their grade level and have likely encountered before.

The students were instructed to read aloud as many words as they could in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator timed the student, making note of any mistakes the student made while reading the words aloud. The score is reported as correct words per minute (cwpm).

Year 2018
Grade(s) 2
Language Dari
Assessment Type Reading Program
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Districts Included in the Program

Not part of the program
Part of the program
Map of Afghanistan

Key Findings

  • 1/4

    The percentage of grade 2 Afghan students who were unable to read a single word of text went down from baseline (2017) to midline (2018).

  • 2/4

    Average student performance improved slightly on all early grade literacy subtasks between 2017 and 2018.

  • 3/4

    At the midterm in 2018, 36% of students achieved a desirable reading level of 40 correct words per minute.

  • 4/4

    While grade 2 girls outperformed boys in 2017, the gap narrowed in 2018.

Program Details

The student population was divided into two major population groups by type of schooling - public or Community Based Education (CBE) schools. A multi-stage sampling approach was employed for the EGRA Dari midline (the same as for baseline). Cluster sampling was applied to the total number of students in each relevant grade from the public schools. The cluster samples of schools in the province were proportionately allocated to the districts based on the district’s proportional representation in the total population. This allowed for appropriate representation in each of the districts in the sample and reduced skewing towards a district or set of districts. Schools were selected using a probability proportional technique in each district as per proportionate sample size. Ten students per grade per school was the sample size assessed in public schools.

See the Afghan Children Reading, Early Grade Reading Assessment in Dari Language, Conducted in the Province of Heart, Revised Midline Report (PDF, 1.3 MB) for more details.
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