Early Grade Reading in Developing Countries Graduate Certificate

young student in Nepal pointing at chalkboard

The Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate is the first university program that focuses specifically on early grade reading in developing countries. This 15-credit, fully-online program offers state-of-the-art professional development for practitioners and policymakers working on early grade reading projects around the world.

The goal of the Early Grade Reading 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 and then want to apply to the International Education concentration at UMass Amherst (the 15 credits from the Graduate Certificate can be applied towards the 36-credit Master’s degree or the doctoral degree with specialization in international education).

The Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate is most suitable for those who work or intend to work in early grade reading projects in developing countries.

For more information about the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate contact Annie Stephany at egrcert@umass.edu. You can also request a 30 minute advising appointment by filling out a meeting request here

Course of Study

Courses may be taken in any order. You may take individual courses even without applying for the certificate.

Course Description Credits Semester Planned
EDUC 680 How Children in Developing Countries Learn to Read (Foundation Course) 3 Fall 2022*
EDUC 687R The Role of Community and Family in Supporting Early Grade Reading 3 Spring 2023*
EDUC 680B Systems to Support Early Grade Reading 3 Fall 2021
EDUC 697TP Teacher Preparation and Support for Early Grade Reading 3 Spring 2022
EDUC 687T Materials and Technology for Early Grade Reading 3 Summer 2022*

SPECIAL COURSE OFFERING:  How Children in Developing Countries Learn Math (Supplemental EGR Course) is planned for SPRING 2022

*These courses are planned but not yet scheduled, so please refer back to this website and SPIRE to verify dates. We confirm courses one year in advance.

+ = Please use the plus sign on the right side of the blue bar to expand the sections below.

EDUC 687T Materials and Technology for Early Grade Reading

The purpose of this course is to help you understand the role of curriculum and material resources to support reading. By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Define what goes into a curriculum for early grade reading;
  • Articulate the ways in which classroom-based materials can be effectively used for promoting early grade reading;
  • Describe the various technology that can be used for promoting early grade reading;
  • Identify the materials and resources needed to support children’s reading acquisition, inside and outside of the classroom;
  • Articulate how policy and systems can be aligned for supporting continuous use and improvement of materials and technology for early grade reading;
  • Supervise the design of appropriate materials considering technical, contextual, cost, and logistic factors;
  • Support the development of materials using locally available resources;
  • Explain mechanisms for vetting and evaluating the effective of materials;
  • Analyze and suggest ways to improve the publication and distribution of materials;
  • Explain how the ‘system of materials’ can be assessed to improve design, vetting, production, distribution, and use of materials; and
  • Create and present an analysis for applying knowledge about materials and technology to your own context and work.

EDUC 680 How Children in Developing Countries Learn to Read

The purpose of this foundations course is to introduce you to how children learn to read in the early grades. By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Articulate why reading is important for human development;
  • Explain the research and theory behind learning in general;
  • Explain how children learn the skill of reading, and the role of teachers and direct instruction in reading acquisition;
  • Outline the five components of reading (phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension) and techniques for teaching print skills and meaning skills;
  • Describe critical factors for reading acquisition in a multilingual context, including the difference in strategies needed for learning to read in one’s mother tongue (L1) vs. learning to read in a second language (L2);
  • Describe how curriculum and materials can support early grade reading;
  • Describe how you would plan and implement action research for promoting reading;
  • Create and present an analysis for applying knowledge about how children learn to read to your own context and work.


EDUC680B Systems to Support Early Grade Reading in Developing Countries

The purpose of this course is to help you understand the “big picture” about all of the stakeholders, policies, and systems involved in implementing an early grade reading reform project. By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the importance of system reform for improving early grade reading;
  • Articulate what is meant by system reform;
  • Articulate the various components of the system such as policy, finance, curriculum, materials, training, supervision, inclusion and so on, that need reform to make the system effective for early grade reading;
  • Outline the major theories about how to build or reform a workable system for children’s reading;
  • Outline the strategies for system change;
  • Discuss the importance of context, such as cultural, social, political, and economic factors that influence the effectiveness of an early grade reading system;
  • Describe the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of a system; and
  • Create and present an analysis for applying knowledge about reform and systems to your own context and work.

EDUC697TP Teacher Preparation and Support for Early Grade Reading

The purpose of this course is to introduce early grade reading project personnel to the ways in which teachers can be prepared and supported to improve children’s acquisition of reading skills in early grades and apply key concepts to their own context. The goal is to prepare you to:

  • Describe the background and context of early grade reading teachers in developing countries;
  • Identify key skills needed to teach reading in developing countries;
  • Understand the supports and motivations teachers need to change their behavior for successfully teaching reading skills in early grades;
  • Learn about teachers’ beliefs about children and their acquisition of reading.
  • Understand the relevant theories of adult learning and how they can be applied in early grade reading teacher preparation activities;
  • Know the different models of teacher preparation for early grade reading such as coaching, job-embedded professional development, pre-service and in-service training and so on;
  • Find, read and analyze teacher development programs/activities related to early grade reading initiatives that have happened in your country or region;
  • Engage with practitioners from around the world who are or will be involved in developing teachers’ capacity for early grade reading;
  • Design early grade reading teacher preparation programs/activities keeping in mind the contextual factors of developing countries.

EDUC 687R Role of Community & Family in Supporting Early Grade Reading

The purpose of this course is to help you understand the role of and support for community and family participation in improving early grade reading. By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the roles that community and family can play in supporting early grade reading in and out of school;
  • Identify stakeholders, such as parents, Parent Teacher Associations, local leaders, and community members who play a role in supporting early grade reading.
  • Explain models of community and school relationship building;
  • Identify the factors that can influence community or family’s involvement in supporting early grade reading;
  • Articulate how to assess and influence family and community members’ beliefs about reading acquisition;
  • Describe how to employ a social marketing approach to change people’s attitudes and behaviors about reading development;
  • Explain models for outreach with all parts of the community, including those who are marginalized;
  • Articulate ways to help the school and community coordinate efforts of multiple donors; and
  • Create and present an analysis for applying knowledge about the role of community and family to your own context and work.

FAQs & Registration

About course registration

Q. What is the course fee?

A. Current tuition* for the 3-credit course is $1707 ($569 per credit). There is also a $50 semester fee each semester, so the total cost of each course is currently $1757. (*Figures applicable as of August 2021) The current total cost of the Early Grade Reading Certificate program (5 courses) is $8,785, but please expect tuition increases over time.

Q. How do I make course payments?

A. Bills are usually generated by the Bursar’s Office around the 15th of the month after the class begins, and are due by the 10th of the following month. You will receive an email to your UMass email account when your invoice becomes available. You may view and pay your bill in QuikPAY. There is an additional charge for paying with a credit card so please plan accordingly.

To access QuikPAY, log in to SPIRE. Go to Main Menu > Finances > View/Pay Bill.

QuikPAY allows you to pay your bill by e-check, credit card, or international bank transfer (via Flywire).

You can also authorize someone else to pay your bill in QuikPay. Learn more in the Authorized Payer Guide.

Q. What is the refund policy if I need to drop the course?

A. If you drop the course before the end of the add/drop period, you will get a 100% refund of the tuition. Your registration fee may be refunded if you are dropping all courses for that semester; otherwise it is non-refundable.

NOTE: “Refund” here also means removing charges from your account, if you have not yet made any payment. If you cannot take the course after all, please drop the course in SPIRE before the deadline, otherwise you will be charged the fees indicated.

For more information, see https://www.umass.edu/cpe/tuition/refund-policy

Q. Is there a scholarship or financial aid available for the course?

A. Unfortunately, the university does not offer scholarships for these courses and there is no financial aid available. However, previous course participants have been able to obtain some financial support from their employer for these courses. International NGOs and development agencies often have professional development support schemes for their staff. As these are university-accredited courses, they are usually eligible for such schemes. Do check with your employer if they provide such support.  Some Massachusetts state employees may be eligible for a tuition waiver which provides a 50% discount on course tuition.

Most financial aid (or loans) through University Without Walls (UWW) is for U.S. citizens pursuing degree programs. Certificate courses do not fall into this category. More information on loans, eligibility and other options can be found at https://www.umass.edu/umfa/non-degree/eligibility. Please email the Early Grade Reading Certificate support team at egrcert@umass.edu if you have any questions about funding. 

Q. How do I register for the upcoming Early Grade Reading course?

A. You can enroll yourself in our courses through SPIRE, the student information system for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For students new to UMass, we recommend that you start the enrollment process at least 10 days prior to the start date of the course, as it can take up to 1 week to process your enrollment application (step 1). 

  1. For students new to UMass: Create a student account. Go to spire.umass.edu. On the right hand menu, under “Apply/References” click on “Non-Degree Enrollment Application” and fill out the form there. Please note that although there is a field for Social Security Number, you do NOT need a Social Security Number to apply – just leave that field blank. You will receive an email with your NetID and password (NOTE: This often takes 3-6 days to process)
  2. All students: Get an enrollment appointment. Once you have received your NetID and password, activate your account and log in to SPIRE (spire.umass.edu) with your new NetID and password.
    • Go to Main Menu > Enrollment > Summer/Wntr/Non-degr Enroll Appt and follow the instructions.
    • (NOTE: It can take 1-2 days for SPIRE to recognize your NetID, so if you do not see these screens, try again the next day.)
  3. All students: Register for the class. The enrollment appointment should be available immediately.
    • Go to Main Menu > Enrollment > Add Classes.
    • Search for the class:
      • Systems to Support Early Grade Reading in Developing Countries
        (Term: Fall 2021; Course Subject– Education;  Course number – (is exactly) 680B;  Class number – 23177 )
    • Add the class to your Shopping Cart, then select the class from the Cart to enroll.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You should be able to access your course on Blackboard shortly afterwards by logging in with your NET ID and Password at https://uma.umassonline.net/webapps/login/#

View step-by-step screenshots for Step 2: Get an enrollment appointment.

View step-by-step screenshots for Step 3: Register for class.

Who can take courses?

Q. What are the admission requirements?

A. In order to take the course, you 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 an 80 on the TOEFL Internet-based course (Note: you do NOT have to take the TOEFL).

Q. Do I need to be a UMass student to register for the course?

A. No, you do NOT need to be a registered student at UMass to take this course.

Q. Can non-US residents apply?

A. Yes, anyone in the world can apply. We have designed this course specifically for participants living outside of the U.S.. International participants do NOT need a Social Security number. You can just leave that space in the form blank.

Q. Do I have to take a TOEFL test for admission?

A. No, participants do not need to take the TOEFL test or submit their scores. We recommend that your English reading and writing skill level be equivalent to a score of 80 on the TOEFL IBT as a guideline for the level of English you need to do well in the course. You should assess your own English skills and decide whether they are sufficient to be successful in the course. We will not be verifying people’s English skills directly before or after registration.

Q. Can UMass students take the course?

A. If you are a UMass Amherst graduate student, you can register for the course through SPIRE, as you do with your other courses. However, because the course is offered through the University Without Walls (UWW) unit, the fee structure is separate from your graduate program, and you will need to pay the course fees and non-refundable registration fee that UWW charges. (Tuition waivers offered by your University graduate program usually do NOT apply to these courses)

What is a course like?

Q. How is the course structured?

A. The online course is 12 weeks long and includes readings, online discussions and both practical and written assignments tailored to your own early grade reading context. It may also include multimedia presentations, virtual small group work, and online presentations of students’ products.

Q. How intensive is the course? How many hours per week do I need to work on it?

A. Participants should spend approximately 5-7 hours each week during the 12-week course. This should be enough time to read the assignments, watch the short videos, post and read comments on the discussion board, and write and post your written assignments. All of the weekly assignments are “asynchronous”, which means that you can work on it at any time during the week; you don’t need to be available at a specific time during the day or week.

Q. How is the course organized for participants in different time zones?

A. The course is designed asynchronously. You can complete your assignments at any time during the week they are assigned. Even if you are doing group work with people around the world, you can submit your posts and responses and upload your assignments to share at any time. Others in your group will access them whenever they log on. Presentation of material is all in video format, not live, so you can watch it any time you are able to be online.

Q. If I am not interested in the graduate certificate, do I still need to submit assignments during the course(s)?

A. The certificate is for those who complete all 5 courses. However, if you sign up for any of the courses, you are required to do the assignments. Even if you don’t want the university credits for completing the course, doing the assignments is important to help you process what you are learning. Also, sometimes other students will share their assignments with you and you will share yours with them, or you may work on a group assignment together; thus everyone learns more. If people take the course without doing the assignments, it makes the course less valuable to all.

Q. Is the course graded or can I take it on a “Pass/Fail” basis?

A. You can receive either a grade or a “Satisfactory” if you pass the course. You can let the instructor know whether you want to take the course on a “Pass/Fail” or a graded basis after you start the course.

Q. Is there a final examination?

A. There is no final examination. You will be graded on how well you participate in the course and on several written assignments. You will be required to submit several papers as the course progresses that help you apply key concepts about early grade reading to your own work and context.

About the Graduate Certificate program

Q. What are the five courses of the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate?

A. The courses in the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate are:

  • EDUC 680 – How Children in Developing Countries Learn to Read
  • EDUC 680B – Systems to Support Early Grade Reading
  • EDUC 697TP – Teacher Preparation and Support for Early Grade Reading
  • EDUC 687T – Materials and Technology for Early Grade Reading
  • EDUC 687R – Role of Community and Family for Supporting Early Grade Reading

Q. Must I take all five courses?

A. You can take just 1 or 2 courses, if you wish, for your own professional development, and you will receive 3 graduate credits for each course. You are not required to take all 5 courses. Do note, however, that you are only eligible for the Graduate Certificate if you complete all 5 courses.

Q. I am interested in receiving the graduate certificate. What do I need to do?

A. If you are intending to earn the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate, we encourage you to apply to the Certificate program by the end of your 2nd course. To apply:

  1. Fill out the online application form
  2. Send the following materials to egrcert@umass.edu:
    1. Resume/CV
    2. Short personal statement (maximum 1 page single-spaced), explaining your interest in the Certificate, how your professional and educational background makes this program a good fit for you, as well as your professional development goals.

Once accepted to the Certificate program, you will be assigned an academic advisor who will be available to discuss your professional goals and academic work, and help you to get the most out of each course.

You will register for and complete each individual course as usual. (Note that while your application is being processed, you can already enroll yourself in the individual courses by following the registration instructions in the course flyer or at the top of this page.)

After you have successfully completed all 5 courses, you will need to submit a completion form and a short (1 page) reflection paper to receive the Certificate.

More on course costs

Q. With so many free online courses around, is there a comparable one that is provided without a fee or charge?

A. You may find free online courses or webinars on reading instruction; however, this particular course is tailored specifically for those who are working on early grade reading reform projects. The course is the only one available on early grade reading that is part of a graduate certificate that, if you are interested and able to take all five courses, will give you a FORMAL certificate from a U.S. university that you otherwise would not be able to obtain.

The 3 or 6 or 15 credits that you will get from finishing a course or two or all five courses (respectively) will be applicable towards a formal master’s degree here at UMass Amherst, should you decide later to apply to the on-campus master’s or doctoral degree. Webinars often do not offer formal graduate credit that may be useful for you to further your qualifications through a recognized and accredited university.

Q. What is the difference between these early grade reading courses and other courses or webinars available for free?

A. There are significant differences in intensity, depth and level of commitment between these courses and free courses that are available online. While there are short-term webinars and free courses, the difference is that students in those courses may “stop in and out” at will, and are usually not required to write papers about theory and practice and get feedback from instructor and peers, apply their learning to their own context, and commit to a full course and all the assignments and depth of learning involved.

As such, these courses are intended to provide a level of mastery that most participants do not get from free or audited courses by simply reading or watching videos. This, we feel, makes a significant difference in the quality of their learning and in their ability to apply and adapt theories, research and professional wisdom to their own work, as well as gain academic skills AND get extensive feedback and advice from expert instructors and enthusiastic peers. In short, we see for-credit graduate courses as a “different bird” than free courses and webinars, and those who can make a financial commitment to them also get more than they would otherwise (in credits and in the educational experience itself).

Q. How do I get more information about the course and/or Graduate Certificate?

A. Please contact Annie Stephany (and/or Cristine Smith) at egrcert@educ.umass.edu

Early Grade Reading Certificate Program
College of Education, University of Massachusetts Amherst
813 North Pleasant St
Amherst, MA 01003

-OR- Set up an 30 minute advising appointment 


Admissions is on a rolling basis. To be admitted to the Certificate program, you must:

  • Hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree
  • Work or intend to work in the field of education and/or early grade reading
  • Have sufficient English reading and writing skills to participate in the courses (As a guideline, this would be equivalent to at least 80 on the TOEFL IBT. Note that you DO NOT need to take the TOEFL or submit any scores.)

International applicants (non-U.S. citizens) are welcome.

We encourage participants to apply to the certificate program by the end of the second course.

Required Materials

  1. Fill out the online application form if you want to formally apply to the program (*please remember you can take a class or two before you apply).
  2. In addition, please send the following materials to egrcert@umass.edu:
    1. Résumé or CV
    2. Personal statement (maximum 1 page single-spaced), explaining your interest in the certificate, how your professional and educational background makes this program a good fit for you, and your professional development goals.
    3. (optional) Unofficial Transcript 

Transfer of Credits

If, after you complete the requirements for the Early Grade Reading Graduate Certificate, you apply to, get admitted and enroll in either the master’s (36 credits) or doctoral program with a specialization in International Education, you will be able to apply all 15 credits to that program.

If you want to find out more regarding the Early Grade Reading Program, please email the program administrator, Annie Stephany, at egrcert@umass.edu or set up an advising appointment.