Malawi Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA): national baseline report 2010

Author(s): Brombacher, Aarnout

Organisation(s): USA. Agency for International Development

Date: 2011

Pages: 70 p.


Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Malawi Teacher Professional Development Support (MTPDS) is a 3-year initiative that aims to improve teacher skills and, through that, the performance of learners in schools. One of MTPDS’s responsibilities is to design and implement an assessment of the learners in Malawi. The purposes of the assessment were to investigate the level of math skills of children in Malawi in order to obtain a national level perspective of early numeracy development, to provide baseline data for USAID-Funded MTPDS Program activities, and identify areas of weakness for future decision-making and curricular and pedagogical interventions. Between September and November 2010, MTPDS administered an assessment to measure student skills in early grade mathematics. Assessments were carried out in 50 schools across six divisions. A total of 999 standard 2 and standard 4 learners were assessed. RTI’s Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) instrument was adapted to the Malawian context for use under MTPDS. EGMA does not assess a specific curriculum, such as the National Primary Curriculum (NPC) of Malawi, but instead is designed to provide information on the level of competency in foundational numeracy skill areas. All the competencies measured are shown through research to be highly predictive of later mathematical proficiency and are susceptible to improvement through effective teaching (for more information, see the “EGMA Conceptual Framework” at The instrument is administered orally, making it possible to assess children on what they know before they can correctly respond to questions on traditional paper-and-pencil tests. The core components of EGMA include oral counting, one-to-one correspondence (rational counting), number identification, number (quantity) discrimination, missing number (pattern completion), word problems, and basic operations (addition and subtraction). Overall, the results show the students are performing at levels well below the levels that the Malawian curriculum expects of them. Across the subtests, analysis indicates a large proportion of students appear to be able to answer only the most elementary and procedural of items. The tests did not suggest significant differences in performance across districts or gender (although the Northern district does appear to perform consistently lower than the others). The picture that the results paint is one of standard 4 students performing better than standard 2 students on all of the subtests and on most items within the subtests. The standard 4 students appear to know more of the answers than the standard 2 students do, yet not doing so with much understanding. Regardless, many students continue to struggle, even in standard 4. It appears any teacher development activities that seek to address the gaps identified by this study would need to pay special attention to the development of understanding (conceptual understanding), reasoning (adaptive reasoning), and application (strategic competence).

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