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All Children Reading–Cambodia (ACR–Cambodia) was a 4-year USAID program supporting the development and implementation of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport’s (MoEYS) national early grade reading program – Komer Rien Komar Cheh. USAID supported implementation in three provinces and the Global Partnership for Education assisted the work in 5 others.

Baseline and midline Early Grade Reading Assessments (EGRA) were implemented in 2018 and 2019, providing data on the impact of Komer Rien Kom Cheh prior to the disruption of schooling caused by the global pandemic (see the 2018 and 2019 Barometer pages). In 2021, an additional EGRA was carried out to help MoEYS investigate and understand how children’s reading skill development was impacted by the periodic school closures during 2020. Data were collected from students in January 2021 at the beginning of grades 1 and 2 in two provinces: Kampong Thom (intervention) and Battambang (control). The early grade 2 outcomes from 2021 were compared as a proxy to end of grade 1 outcomes from 2019.

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) Extended
Oral reading fluency (ORF) passage example

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 are given a short, 61-word, written passage on a familiar topic and were asked to read it out loud “quickly but carefully.”

The Extended ORF subtask follows the same approach as the ORF, but the students are given more than 60 seconds to read. In this EGRA, students were given 3 minutes. If the child could not read any of the first seven words in the passage, they were told to discontinue the test (and were given a score of zero words read). The EGRA administrator times 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), calculated using the longer duration rather than coming from the first 60 seconds of reading.

Letter Names

The letter names subtask tests students’ ability to recognize letters and accurately speak their corresponding name.

The students were presented with a grid of 100 letters they were expected to learn by the end of grade 1. For Khmer, this includes the full range of types of letters students are exposed to in the early grades, including subscript forms of the consonants, dependent and independent vowels (including all types—regular consonant, consonant subscript symbols, dependent vowels, and independent vowels) in random order. Students are asked to read out loud as many as they can, as quickly and carefully as they can, in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator timed the child, making note of any mistakes the child made while calling out the letter names. The score is reported as correct letters per minute (clpm).

Consonant Identification
Consonant identification example

The consonant identification subtask tests students’ ability to recognize consonants and their names. In contrast to the regular letter-naming subtask, for this subtask, students are asked to read all consonants (they are not stopped if they cannot read any in the first line).

Students were presented with a sheet listing al 33 consonants and asked to read out loud as many as they can, as quickly and carefully as they can, in 2 minutes. The EGRA administrator timed the child and recorded the number of correct consonants per minute. The score represents the percent of consonants in Khmer that were correctly identified.

Vowel Identification
Vowel identification example

The vowel identification subtask tests students’ ability to recognize vowels and their names. In contrast to the regular letter-naming subtask, for this subtask, students are asked to read all vowels (they are not stopped if they cannot read any in the first line).

Students are presented with a sheet listing 23 dependent vowels and asked to read out loud as many as they can, as quickly and carefully as they can, in 2 minutes. These are the most common of vowels in Khmer, and the ones that students in grade 1 learn first. The EGRA administrator times the child and records the number of correct vowels per minute. The score represents the percent of vowels in Khmer that were correctly identified.

Familiar Words

The familiar word reading subtask presents the student with a grid containing words they are expected to be able to read at their grade level and have likely encountered before.

The students were presented a list of 50 familiar words drawn from grade 1-3 textbooks. They 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).

Reading Comprehension (Extended)

Comprehension is the main goal of reading—understanding what is read. Comprehension is a complex task that requires sufficient proficiency in all other reading skills.

This subtask is paired with the Extended ORF subtask. After completing the Extended ORF subtask, the EGRA administrator asked the student 5 comprehension questions that corresponded to the passage. Unlike the basic reading comprehension subtask, it does not matter how far in the passage the student reached. All questions are asked of every student.

Year 2021
Grade(s) 1
Language Khmer
Assessment EGRA
Assessment Type Reading Program
View Country Page

Provinces Included in Study

Control Group
Treatment Group
Map of Cambodia

Key Findings

  • 1/4

    After COVID-related closures in 2020, on average, students in grade 1 scored higher on all subtasks than students at the end of grade 1 had in 2019. However, grade 1 students in intervention schools scored, on average, statistically significantly higher on all subtasks than students in comparison schools.

  • 2/4

    In 2021, girls in Kampong Thom and Battambang, on average could recognize letters slightly more fluently than boys, averaging 3.7 more letters correct per minute.

  • 3/4

    Despite COVID-related school closures, grade 1 students’ ability to correctly identify letter names grew for control schools (Battambang) and even more for treatment schools (Kampong Thom).

  • 4/4

    During COVID-19, when in session, schools were instructed to focus exclusively on reading and mathematics in the early grades.

    Teachers were encouraged to work through the curriculum at a pace that suited their students, rather than rushing to cover everything. Teachers reached students through WhatsApp, Facebook, SMS, and in person visits to households and communities.

Program Design:

USAID ACR—Cambodia activities included improved teaching and learning materials for early grade literacy and mathematics, and training and ongoing support for teachers to improve their capacity to deliver quality classroom instruction. The program was rolled out in phases. It initially provided support for pre-primary and grade 1 literacy, then added grade 2 and mathematics support in later years.

During school closures due to COVID-19, the program produced supplementary workbooks which were sent home with the students, produced distance learning workbooks, supported teachers to communicate guidance to parents, and made digital resources such as storybook available.

Evaluation Design:

EGR Barometer data for ACR–Cambodia were collected in 2018, 2019, and 2021. Data analysis shows the impact of the program on students in grades 1 and 2.

Improvements to instruction in grade 1 were piloted beginning in two provinces (Kampong Thom and Siem Reap) at the start of the 2019–20 school year. Schools located in Battambang Province serve as the controls for the intervention. Instruction in grade 2 in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces and grade 1 in schools in Kampot province were added to the pilot at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The goal of the 2021 evaluation was to help the MoEYS investigate and understand any differences in student reading achievement after two years of the national reading program implementation, followed by school closures and adjustments due to COVID-19. Data was collected from students in 2021 at the beginning of grade 1 and 2 in two provinces: Kampong Thom (intervention) and Battambang (control). The grade 2 outcomes from early in the school year in 2021 were compared as a proxy to end of grade 1 outcomes from 2019.

More detailed information about this implementation of EGRA, the specific measures assessed, and the sample design may be found in the All Children Reading—Asia: Building Resilience in the Return to Learning During COVID-19: Cambodia Final Study Report (PDF, 680KB).