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The Early Grade Reading Program (EGRP) in Nepal was a 6-year USAID program implemented from 2015 to 2020. The 2016 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) represents the baseline (first) assessment of the program.

The goals of EGRP were to improve the foundational reading skills of Nepali children in grades 1, 2, and 3 and to increase their reading fluency and comprehension.

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

Letter Sounds

The letter sounds subtask tests students’ ability to recognize letters and speak their corresponding sounds.

Students are presented with a sheet listing 10x10 grid of 100 Nepali letters and asked to read out loud as many as they can, as quickly and carefully as they can, in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator times the child and records the number of correct letter sounds per minute (clspm).

Matra Identification

In Nepali, a matra is a unit of two letters that are combined with a symbol (such as an accent or other mark) that changes the sound of the vowel. Two or more matras combined form words. The matra subtask assesses students’ ability to quickly and accurately identify these units.

Students are presented 100 matras and are asked to provide the correct matra sounds in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator times the student, making note of any mistakes the student makes while reading the matras aloud. The score is reported as correct matras per minute (cmpm).


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 Nepali 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 was asked to read out loud as many words 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).

Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is a measure of students’ oral language skills, which also contributes to reading.

In this subtask, the EGRA administrator reads a passage to the student, who does not see it. The EGRA administrator then asks the student 3 questions about the passage. The listening comprehension score is the total correct answers, with a maximum possible score of 3.

Reading Comprehension

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

This subtask is paired with the ORF subtask. Depending on how much of the ORF passage the student was able to read, the EGRA administrator asks the student up to six questions about the story. The EGRA administrator keeps track of the number of questions answered correctly. The reading comprehension score was the total correct answers, with a maximum possible score of six.

Year 2016
Grade(s) 1, 2, 3
Language Nepali
Assessment Type Reading Program
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Districts Included in the Study

No Treatment
Cohort 1 (Full Treatment)
Cohort 2 (Light Treatment)
Map of Nepal

Key Findings

  • 1/4

    On average, boys and girls read at about the same rates in each grade.

  • 2/4

    The majority of students could not answer a single reading comprehension question.

  • 3/4

    In grade 3, girls were more likely than boys to be unable to read a single word (42% vs. 36%).

  • 4/4

    Students whose home language was other than Nepali were significantly more likely than students whose home language was Nepali to be unable to read even one word of connected text.

Program Design

EGRP worked with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to roll out program activities. These activities included developing teaching and learning materials, training teachers, offering in-classroom teacher support, mobilizing communities, issuing grants to encourage community support for children’s learning, and distributing supplementary reading materials for classroom libraries.

The EGRP intervention was a staggered design, rolled out in two cohorts, with the intervention components described in the table below:

Intervention Activities between Baseline 2016 and Midterm 2018 Intervention Activities between Midterm 2018 and Endline 2020
Cohort 1
  • Early grade reading teaching and learning materials
  • Classroom library books
  • Teacher training
  • Community mobilization and grants
  • Early grade reading teaching and learning materials
  • Teacher training
  • In-school teacher support
Cohort 2
  • Classroom library books
  • Limited stakeholder training
  • Early grade teaching and learning materials
  • Teacher training
  • Limited community mobilization and grants
  • In-school teacher support

Evaluation Design

EGRA Barometer data for EGRP were collected for the intervention cohorts and control groups via EGRAs administered at baseline in 2016, midterm in 2018, and endline in 2020. Different students were sampled each time.

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