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EGR Barometer data are from the Zambia Ministry of General Education’s 2014 National Assessment Survey (NAS) of Learning at Grade 2, led by the Examinations Council of Zambia. NAS results are presented by the seven official Zambian languages of instruction. The survey was funded by USAID and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (now the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office). The early grade reading assessment (EGRA) was administered to 4,855 grade 2 students from 486 schools across all the provinces of Zambia.

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 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).

Letter Sounds

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

Students were presented with a sheet listing 100 letters and asked to say out loud the letter sound for 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).


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).

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 five.

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 five questions about the story. The EGRA administrator recorded the number of questions answered correctly.

Year 2014
Grade(s) 2
Language Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga
Assessment Type National Assessment
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Study Map

Map of Zambia

Key Findings

  • 1/3

    Among Zambian grade 2 students who were instructed in Chitonga, the average oral reading fluency rate (ORF) was 2 correct words per minute (cwmp).

    There was no statistically significant difference in average ORF between boys and girls.
  • 2/3

    Among grade 2 students instructed in Chitonga, 88 percent were unable to read a single word of connected text.

  • 3/3

    Reading comprehension was low.

    About 94% of grade 2 students instructed in Chitonga could not answer a single reading comprehension question. There was no statistically significant difference in comprehension for boys and girls.

Assessment Details

There are seven official languages of instruction in Zambia—Nyanja, Bemba, Lozi, Tonga, Kaonde, Luvale, and Lunda. Several of these languages are spoken in other countries. The Barometer uses the alternate names to identify the different languages of instruction. The following table shows the official language name and the name used within Zambia.

Language Alternate Name
Nyanja Cinyanja
Bemba Icibemba
Lozi Silozi
Tonga Chitonaga
Kaonde Kiikaonde
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