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EGR Barometer data are from a World Bank-funded 2009 Analysis of Early Grade Reading Acquisition. Nine hundred students in grades 1, 2, and 3 were tested in 40 primary schools, which were randomly selected from all schools across the country. Students were tested in both Portuguese and Tetum.

EGRA Subtasks

An EGRA is a test students take that can measure their skill at both pre-reading and reading subtasks. 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 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).

Initial Sound

The initial sound subtask is a measure of a student’s ability to identify the first sound in a word. It also measures a student’s ability to separate words into sounds and to manipulate those sounds.

Students were told a set of three Portuguese/Tetum words verbally, two of which began with the same sound and one of which began with a different sound. Students were asked to identify the word with the different sound. The exercise was repeated with 10 sets of three words. The EGRA administrator recorded the number of correct words identified.

Letter Sounds

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

Students were presented with a sheet listing 10 letters and asked to read out loud as many as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could, in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator timed the child and recorded the number of correct letter sounds per minute (clspm).

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 listing 100 letters in a random order. Students were asked to read out loud as many as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could, 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).

Nonwords

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 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).

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).

Listening Comprehension

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

In this subtask, the EGRA administrator read a passage to the student, who did not see it. The student then responded to questions or statements read by the EGRA administrator. The listening comprehension score is the total correct answers, with a maximum possible score of six.

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 asked the student up to six questions about the story. The EGRA administrator recorded the number of questions answered correctly.

Dictation

Dictation is used to assess both oral language and writing skills. Students’ ability to hear sounds and then correctly write the corresponding letters and words demonstrates their growing skill in understanding the alphabet.

The child was asked to write, spell, and use grammar properly through a dictation exercise.

Year 2009
Grade(s) 1, 2, 3
Language Portuguese, Tetum
Assessment EGRA
Assessment Type National Assessment
View Country Page

Study Map

Map of Timor-Leste

Key Findings

  • 1/4

    The average oral reading fluency (ORF) rates for students in grades 1, 2, and 3 were 5, 21, and 44 correct words per minute (cwpm), respectively. Girls and boys performed about the same in each grade.

  • 2/4

    Seventy-three percent of grade 1 students, 39% of grade 2 students, and 19% of grade 3 students were unable to read a single word of connected text. Girls and boys performed about the same in each grade.

  • 3/4

    About 9 in 10 grade 1 students (91%), half of grade 2 students (55%), and 1 in 3 grade 3 students (37%) could not answer a single reading comprehension question.

  • 4/4

    Seventy-two percent of grade 1 students were unable to identify a single word in a list of 50 familiar Portuguese words. With an additional year of schooling, 35% of grade 2 students were unable to identify a single word.

Program Details

The process of adapting the EGRA instrument was particularly complex in Timor‐Leste because of the multiplicity of indigenous languages spoken in the country. According to Ethnologue, there are approximately 20 active languages, 19 indigenous and one non-indigenous (Portuguese) that are spoken in the country. Some of those languages are spoken by very small portions of the population.

The official languages of the country are Portuguese and Tetum. The language of instruction in the early grades was, at the time of the EGRA assessment, the preferred language of the teacher, which was most commonly Tetum or another local language. The Ministry of Education decided to assess reading in these two languages only. However, there are multiple dialects of Tetum and only a very limited portion of the population speaks fluent Portuguese. Many children in Timor‐Leste were, therefore, learning Tetum and Portuguese for the first time in the early grades of primary schooling. Teaching in Tetum was also complicated by the fact that Tetum had not been fully standardized in written form, while teaching in Portuguese was hindered by the fact that many teachers in Timor‐Leste did not speak or read fluently in Portuguese.

More detailed information can be found in Timor‐Leste: An Analysis of Early Grade Reading Acquisition report.