SALDRU at the University of Cape Town is conducting an external impact evaluation of the Funda Wande programme. The primary aim with this evaluation is to understand the causal impact of Funda Wande coaching and materials on foundation phase learners’ ability to read with meaning. Not only will this help us understand to what extent the programme is achieving its goals, but the research will feed into the growing body of rigorous evidence on which programmes have the potential to address South Africa’s reading crisis (i.e. the fact that most of our children, 58%, do not learn to read for meaning in the first three years of school). More specifically, key question is: what is the causal effect of the Funda Wande programme (the training materials, resources and coaching support) on both foundational reading skills and reading comprehension?
The method used to answer this is a randomized-controlled trial (RCT), with schools randomly assigned to treatment (Funda Wande Programme) and control (no programme) groups. We cannot estimate the effect of the programme by simply comparing the same children’s reading outcomes before and after the programme was introduced. We would expect learners reading outcomes to improve over time even in the absence of the programme, and we will not know how much, if any, of the improvement to attribute to the programme. So we need a comparison/control group to provide a “counterfactual”, allowing us to estimate the average impact of the programme by comparing those who received the programme to a similar group who were not exposed to it. To do this, we need to ensure that the comparison group would have had similar reading outcomes to those who do receive the programme, but if the Funda Wande programme never happened.
This is why the RCT is conducted, with schools randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. The evaluation team then does reading assessments with learners in all schools before the programme starts (baseline) and twice again after the programme has been running for some time (midline and endline). It is this randomisation of schools into the treatment and control groups that ensures that the groups will be very similar before the programme starts. This means that any differences in the reading ability of learners between the two groups at midline and/or endline can be attributed to the Funda Wande programme.
In terms of specific details, a total of 59 quintile 3 schools from the three urban districts in the Eastern Cape (Nelson Mandela Bay, Sarah Baartman, and Buffalo City) were included in the baseline data collection. The evaluation team randomly selected 10 grade 1 learners and 10 grade 2 learners in each school for assessment using subtasks of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), a widely used tool to measure various aspects of reading proficiency. The evaluation will follow these same learners over time, assessing their reading skills at midline (Oct/Nov 2019) and endline (Oct/Nov 2020).
Look out for an upcoming blog on findings from the baseline data collection.