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Community Contribution

Adapting Primary School Literacy Instruction during COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic

Karin Obritzhauser

The March 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Dominican Republic prompted the Ministry of Education (MoE) to order an immediate closure of schools nationwide. For eight months, all public schools remained closed as the MoE struggled to develop a distance learning program that would reach the most students. The MoE’s program included printing booklets for home use, broadcasting class lessons on television and radio, providing students and teachers with digital devices, and implementing online training courses for school personnel.

In response, the USAID-supported Read activity, which aims to improve children’s reading and writing skills in 387 Dominican public elementary schools, had to adjust to this new, challenging context. Using an adaptive management approach, Read worked remotely with teachers and school personnel for almost eight months until in-person classes resumed. Moreover, Read had to identify how to best support the government's efforts to mitigate potential learning losses likely to occur with a non-interactive modality, prompting the activity to follow a continuous learning and improvement approach.

Read shifted its paradigm so that its work was not just about literacy, but also about saving lives, mitigating wealth inequality, closing the digital divide, and creating safe spaces for communities. In collaboration with a coalition of stakeholders, Read adapted its proven curriculum and best practices and disseminated them widely. Read also continued collecting data; it now owns the only public data that exists on educational achievement of students in the Dominican Republic during the pandemic.

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