USAID Malawi Education Fact Sheet


USAID has supported Malawi’s education sector since independence in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), increasing access to education, particularly for girls, and building capacity in the education sector.  Building on this strong partnership, USAID remains committed to working with the Ministry, development partners, and civil society to address the educational challenges facing the country today.  
USAID now focuses its education interventions on early grade reading.  In Malawi, 83% of Standard 1 students cannot read a single syllable and 92% cannot read a single word.  On average, Standard 3 students can only read 11 words per minute and 67% cannot identify the first sound, or phoneme, in a word.  Malawi’s educational performance has continually ranked at the bottom within the Southern African Region.
The Government of Malawi has responded to this challenge by concentrating on improving learning outcomes in Education.  This focus is evident in the MoEST’s Second Education Sector Implementation Plan (ESIP II) which prioritizes 50% of Standard 4 students reaching grade-appropriate literacy/numeracy rates by 2017, a high-performing teaching corps, an increase in internal efficiency, and improved management and delivery of Teaching and Learning Materials (TLMs).
To actively pursue these priorities, in early November 2014 the MoEST formally adopted a National Reading Strategy (NRS), developed with technical assistance from USAID/Malawi.  The NRS is fully aligned with the priorities set forth in the ESIP II.  Its components of the NRS are instruction, assessment, teacher preparation, and families and communities.
Malawi - girls education - reading
Schoolgirls in Malawi learn to read.
Amos Gumulira

Program Elements

Through the Early Grade Reading Project (EGRP), USAID/Malawi is working with the MoEST to enhance the quality of primary education through targeted early grade reading interventions.  Activities strengthen teaching methodologies, develop appropriate learning materials, increase parental and communal support for reading, and improve the policy environment for reading to help government, schools, and communities build a stronger foundation for learning for all students.  EGRP activities include:
  • Early Grade Reading Activity (EGRA) (June 2013-October 2016) Implemented by RTI International in 11 education districts, EGRA provides technical assistance to the MoEST to improve the reading performance of Malawian students in Standards 1–3.  EGRA improves early grade reading instruction, provides TLMs, encourages greater parental and community engagement in providing reading support, and strengthens the policy environment for early grade reading.  
  • EGRA Impact Evaluation (EGRAIE) (April 2013 – September 2018) This evaluation, implemented by Social Impact, measures the effect of EGRA on student reading outcomes and tests the hypothesis that integrating USAID interventions in education, agriculture, and health, as well as adding a community strengthening component, results in increased learning amongst primary school students.  Data collection for the EGRAIE will take place in 2013, 2015 and 2017.  
  • Strengthening Early Grade Reading in Malawi (SEGREM) (October 2014 – October 2017) The Malawi Institute of Education, a parastatal organization, replicates EGRA activities in Standards 1-4 in the Chiladzulu, Dedza, and Mchinji Education Districts.  
  • Learning to Read Activity (December 2014- November 2015) The African Centre for Communication for Development, a local organization, replicates EGRA activities in Standards 1 and 2 in the Phalombe Education District while also increasing retention of girls in school and reducing overcrowding in primary schools. 
  • Strengthening Early Grade Reading for Malawi’s Children Through Teaching Assistants (SEGRA) (April 2014-April 2015) Implemented by the Forum for African Women Educationists in Malawi, a local organization, this activity addresses the problem of over-crowded classrooms and their effect on learning outcomes.  Implemented in two districts, Ntchisi and Mwanza, 70 percent of the beneficiaries for this activity are women with an interest in the teaching profession who will work in schools as Learning Assistants (LAs) for reading. 
  • USAID - Lakeland College Educational Partnership (March 2014-January 2017)  Twenty language arts teacher trainers from public Teacher Training Colleges in Malawi will earn their Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree, with an emphasis in early grade reading instruction, at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.  The degree program includes a research practicum on early grade reading in Malawi.
  • Girls’ Empowerment through Education and Health Activity (ASPIRE) (December 2014 – December 2018) Save the Children Federation, Inc. ASPIRE is designed to specifically address the challenges that girls face in the Malawian Education System.  A collaborative, co-funded activity between USAID/Malawi’s Education and Health Offices and implemented by Save the Children Federation, Inc., ASPIRE focuses on all primary and secondary schools in the Balaka and Machinga districts.  Interventions will improve reading skills for girls in upper primary school, increase the adoption of positive sexual and health-care seeking behaviors, and decrease key structural and cultural barriers for girls’ access to schooling.  

Quick Facts

During the 2013-2014 school year, Standard 1 zero scores in familiar word reading dropped from 94% to 63% in USAID reading intervention areas.

In Standard 3, the mean score in oral reading fluency rose from 13.6 to 25.8 correct words per minute.

A 2014 reading assessment found that 72% of students in Standard 2 who were able to read 30 correct words per minute or more came from USAID reading intervention districts.

Key Message

Reading creates the foundation for lifelong learning and social and economic development for Malawi.

Funding (FY14)

$20.5 million


  • blueTree Group

  • Brattle Publishing Group

  • Creative Centre for Community Mobilisation (CRECCOM)

  • FHI 360

  • Higher Education for Development

  • Malawi Institute of Education

  • Perkins International

  • RTI International

  • Save the Children

Geographic Focus


USAID Contact

Michelle Chen, Office Chief




Last updated: September 29, 2015

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