Literacy, foundation learning and assessment in developing countries


This paper summarises evidence from a DFID-funded review by Nag, Chiat, Torgerson and Snowling (2014) Literacy, Foundation Learning and Assessment in Developing Countries. It includes evidence extracted from 260 papers following a comprehensive search of the literature from 1990 to January, 2013.

Key Findings:

  • Language is the vehicle of classroom instruction. In the multilingual contexts of developing countries, children with low proficiency in the school language are disadvantaged.
  • Strong foundations in oral language are essential to enable fluent reading with understanding.
  • Interventions targeting language skills are beneficial for literacy development and, if delivered early, they can provide a scaffold for learning across the curriculum.
  • Literacy-related assessment in the early grades has focused on symbol knowledge, and to a lesser extent phonological awareness, but not on the critical skills of vocabulary and grammar.
  • Assessment of numeracy focuses on arithmetic operations and seldom includes mathematical reasoning.
  • Teaching of numeracy privileges the school language. Children’s performance improves when teachers support their reading (and comprehension) of problems and they are permitted to give the solution in the home language.


Anon. Literacy, foundation learning and assessment in developing countries. DFID, London, UK (2014) 12 pp.

Published 1 January 2014