Online Graduate Certificate - Early Grade Reading in Developing Countries

Under the Education for All initiative in the past decade, many developing countries made huge gains in increasing access to schooling for children at the primary level. However, subsequent assessments have shown that many of these children are not actually learning to read and write in school.


The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2015 noted that:


  • Very poor levels of learning in lower primary grades are resulting in millions of children leaving education before acquiring basic skills.

  • Children who do not learn to read a text or do basic calculations in the lower grades are likely to struggle throughout their school careers.

  • Their commitment to education is likely to diminish and they are more likely to drop out.


According to the Global Partnership for Education, 250 million children who attend primary school in developing countries are struggling to read even basic words.


The global education and international development community is now focused on improving early grade reading in schools in developing countries. However, many development and funding agency staff are not adequately prepared or trained in the specialized knowledge and skills needed to administer and implement effective, research-based early grade reading programs around the world.   


The Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate at UMass Amherst consists of 5 fully-online courses designed specifically for practitioners and policy makers working on early grade reading reform projects. The intended outcome of the certificate program is to:


  • Increase the capacity of government and non-governmental personnel to develop, monitor and improve early grade reading programs in developing countries

  • Provide accessible training to practitioners and policy makers who work in early grade reading but cannot attend university classes in the U.S.

  • Serve as a stepping stone to a Master’s degree for those who finish the certificate (15 credits) and want to apply to the International Education concentration at UMass Amherst (36 credits needed for a Master’s program).


Participants who have already taken some of the courses have come from Bhutan, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Senegal. They include staff working at USAID, EDC, AIR, Banyan Tree, World Learning, UNICEF, and other international organizations.


What courses are offered?


The five courses in the program are:

  • How Children in Developing Countries Learn to Read

  • Systems for Supporting Early Grade Reading

  • Teacher Preparation and Support for Early Grade Reading

  • Materials and Technology in Early Grade Reading

  • The Role of Community and Family in Supporting Early Grade Reading


Click here for more information about each course.


What are these courses like?


Participation in all courses is asynchronous, so students can log in at any time that is convenient for them. You do NOT need to be a registered student at UMass to take these courses. Courses include readings, video lectures, participation in discussion forums, and action research assignments. Each course is 12 weeks long. You may take just one, several, or all five courses. Usually one or two courses are offered each semester or during the summer.


Click here for more information on course fees, registration and participation.



Who can take these courses?


Course participants should:

  • Hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree

  • Work or intend to work in the field of education and/or early grade reading

  • Have English reading and writing skills equivalent to 80 on the TOEFL Internet-based course. Participants do not need to take the TOEFL or submit scores; this is just a guide for the level of English needed to successfully complete the readings, discussions, and assignments.


Anyone in the world can apply. The courses are designed specifically for participants living outside of the U.S.


Who teaches these courses?


The certificate program and courses were designed by CIE faculty members led by Cristine Smith and Kate Hudson from the College of Education, in collaboration with John Comings and Ash Hartwell.


Current course instructors include Cristine Smith, John Comings and Rebecca Stone (right). Other courses are taught by practitioners in early grade reading who have received their doctorates from UMass Amherst, Harvard and other U.S.-accredited universities. They now work at INGOs such as the International Rescue Committee, FHI360, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Each instructor has extensive experience in early grade reading reform projects.


For more information


Web site: