USAID Collaboration with Nigeria’s Bayero University in Kano Strengthens Early Grade Reading in Nigeria

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Professors Amina Adamu (left) and Aisha Umar Tsiga (second right) of BUK, with Stephanie Zuilkowski (second left), and Adrienne Barnes (right) of Florida State University, at the Learning Systems Institute on the FSU campus in Tallahassee, Florida.

Over the past three years, a unique collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Nigeria’s Bayero University in Kano (BUK), and Florida State University (FSU) in the United States has helped Africa’s most populous country strengthen its ability to teach early grade reading, the foundation of lifelong learning.

This activity supported the training and mentorship of six BUK Faculty Fellows on cutting-edge research, teacher training, and the process of publishing academic articles during a six-month residency at the FSU Learning Systems Institute. The partnership culminated in establishment of a new Nigerian Center for Reading Research and Development on the BUK campus.

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A participant speaks at the First National Conference on Children’s Books and the Teaching of Early Grade Reading in Nigeria, organized by the NCRRD in August 2019.

“This new focus on raising this quality of teaching and learning was borne out of the realization that reading is fundamental to education,” said Prof. Muhammad Yahuza Bello, Vice-Chancellor of BUK. “No nation can achieve meaningful development without inculcating effective reading skills amongst its growing generations.”

Now a permanent part of the BUK community, the new Research Center will facilitate research on all matters that affect reading and the teaching of early grade reading in Nigeria. The six BUK Faculty Fellows are thought leaders, researchers and champions for the adoption of the best teaching and learning practices in reading throughout Nigeria.

During their time on the Tallahassee, Florida campus, the BUK Fellows participated in scholarly activities, published journal articles, and presented their work at educational forums.

In coordination with other USAID activities, the fledgling Center hosted two national conferences attended by more than 800 education stakeholders at the national, state, and local levels to share and publicize reading research findings for the Nigerian context.

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Professor Umar Kabir, one of the first two NCRRD fellows who had advanced training at the Florida State University, stands in front of the Westcott Fountain at FSU

“At USAID we have a passion for education and high hopes for its future in Nigeria,” Mission Director Stephen M. Haykin said. “In that spirit, this partnership played a critical role in ensuring the next generation of Nigerian children is equipped with the reading skills that will serve as the basis for a lifetime of learning.”

The partnership promises to benefit education in Nigeria for years to come, having developed a new cadre of leaders and trainers in reading research who will champion the advancement of high-quality reading instruction, learning and research for future generations of teachers in primary grade reading strategies to effectively teach more children to enjoy a lifetime of reading.

The Center also serves as a clearinghouse where education stakeholders can leverage data and approaches to effect positive changes in the classroom and improve learning across Nigeria through stronger reading curricula for millions of students.

Research shows that a child who starts to read in a language he or she understands will be better equipped to take on learning a foreign language in later grades, and ultimately get more out of his or her education.

Since 2015, USAID has embraced this concept, distributing more than three million books and teacher’s guides for early grade reading in Hausa and English in the north. Similar materials are under development in Igbo and Yoruba to serve children in other areas of Nigeria.

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The NCRRD building under construction earlier this year. Its permanent presence will help improve reading instruction in Nigeria for decades to come.

Nigeria’s education system is challenged to keep pace with its rapidly growing population. USAID works to strengthen state and local education systems in partnership with all Nigerians. The Center is an important step forward to deepening early grade reading resources available in Nigeria.

U.S. Mission Nigeria


United States Diplomatic Mission in Nigeria. For official information visit

The Learning Systems Institute extends its reach to Uzbekistan in Central Asia

The Uzbekistan Education Reform Program is a new initiative sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development under the Science, Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (STIP) in Higher Education Annual Program Statement. RTI International and its partners, Florida State University and Mississippi State University will implement the four-year program from 2020 to 2024.

In the past fifty years, LSI has worked in 36 countries, but never in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The country has a high literacy rate, with about 99 percent of adults above the age of 15 being able to read and write. Nevertheless, due to severe budget shortfalls in its education system this figure may decline, as only 76 percent of the under-15 population is currently enrolled in education. This situation gives rise to a growing interest on the part of the government and international donors to engage in partnerships for education.

In July 2019, Mr. Rabieh Razzouk (PI) and Dr. Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi (Co-PI) traveled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan representing LSI at FSU to participate in the ‘co-creation’ process.  The one-week co-creation involved presentations by RTI International, MSU, and FSU followed by discussions with USAID, the Uzbek Ministry of Public Education and other stakeholders.

After a few months of deliberation, the Uzbekistan Education Reform Program was launched in February 2020. Again, the FSU representatives (Mr. Rabieh Razzouk and Dr. Flavia Ramos Mattoussi) traveled to Uzbekistan to participate in collaborative meetings with the Uzbek counterparts in Tashkent.

USAID is realigning and reorienting its policies, strategies, and program practices to improve how it supports each country on the Journey to Self-Reliance—or, put another way, a country’s ability to plan, finance, and implement solutions to address its own development challenges in a sustainable way. For the program, this means a focus on technical and managerial inputs that build MPE’s capacity to design and test, monitor, and learn from effective solutions. The Program will place added attention on using the lessons from pilot implementation to design sustainable scale-up strategies and plans, including identifying resource mobilization requirements.

The Ministry of Public Education (MPE) in Uzbekistan is committed to an ambitious program of systematic and comprehensive reforms. The country aims to create an education system that can produce graduates with the critical thinking, problem solving, and practical skills that will enable them to succeed. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has put in place an agreement with MPE for the Uzbekistan Education Reform Program. This program commits USAID to support the goal of sustainably improving the reading, math, information and communication technology (ICT), and English skills of students in the country’s public schools. Future students, therefore, will be more employable and/or more likely to gain acceptance into university studies. To attain the desired improvements in learning, MPE and USAID have agreed on a collaboration to achieve three components:[1]

  • Component 1: Improve reading and math outcomes in grades 1–6
  • Component 2: Support IT Nation initiatives for grades 1–11
  • Component 3: Improve English language instruction

RTI International is collaborating with Mississippi State University (MSU) and Florida State University (FSU) to provide the expertise and experience needed to help MPE achieve and sustain the above results.

This Program description benefits from the insights and agreements obtained during the co- creation workshop held in Tashkent, July 22–26, 2019. MPE colleagues from all concerned technical departments attended the workshop sessions, actively assisting the RTI team in understanding the needs, opportunities, and challenges present in the education sector. As a result, the Program now aligns its activities more closely to MPE’s needs, including taking into account and complementing other projects and initiatives.

At the close of the co-creation workshop, Minister of Education Sherzod Shermatov reaffirmed the guiding principles of quality, justice, and transparency that govern the reform agenda in the education sector. A commitment to quality is reflected in the Program’s focus on helping Uzbekistan adopt best practice approaches to standards-based education and state-of-the-art teacher professional development strategies. The Program will also assist MPE in making sure resources and support enhance equity and justice—advising MPE in developing and testing strategies that can be successful even in districts with fewer resources. In addition, the Program’s approach to instruction includes enabling teachers to focus on equity and inclusion, by responding to the needs of male and female students, as well as supporting students who are struggling and extending opportunities for those who are advanced.

The rigorous frameworks for monitoring, evaluating, and sharing the lessons from project activities will support MPE’s commitment to transparency. This approach is consistent with USAID’s commitment to collaboration, learning, and adapting (CLA) as core principles of project management. Lastly, throughout the co-creation process, MPE emphasized the importance of capacity development as key to sustainability. The Program’s approach is therefore centered on helping MPE on its journey to self-reliance by developing the technical, managerial, and operational capacities needed for MPE to put in place a standards-based education system.

The FSU-Learning Systems Institute (LSI) team composed of technical experts in instructional design for the specific areas of the project (Math, Reading, and English) will provide technical assistance to the Uzbekistan Education Reform Program in collaboration with RTI International and the Ministry of Public Education in Uzbekistan. FSU-LSI will bring to the table many years of experience in international development, and most of all the experience of working with Florida teachers on the development of standard-driven instruction for K-12 students. In addition to the technical assistance to local partners, FSU-LSI intends to build the capacity of the MPE to develop and maintain its own web-based platform with resources to support teachers and students in grades 1-11 beyond the life of the project. Rabieh Razzouk, Director of CPALMS, initiated the ‘platform’ idea — an online toolbox of information, vetted resources, and interactive tools that helps educators effectively implement teaching standards. CPALMS is the State of Florida’s official source for standards information and course descriptions.

The vision is that teachers and students in Uzbekistan will have access to a variety of instructional resources and the ability to interact with those resources as well as with educators from around the world to address the learning needs of 21st century students.










A Towering Task: The Story of the Corps #FSUglobal

In honor of Peace Corps Week “A Towering Task: The Story of the Corps” movie will be shown in the Globe Auditorium at the Center for Global Engagement at Florida State University. Monday, March 2, 2020 at 5:30PM. Sponsored by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of North Florida, COCA/ Tallahassee Arts.  #FSUglobal

Peace Corps Tallahassee email:

Discover how the Learning Systems Institute (1969-2019) has worked to improve learning and performance in Florida and around the world for the last 50 years.

Created by Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University

By: Robert Lengacher, Learning Systems Institute

Music from  |  “Imagefilm 041,” “Total Happy Up And Sunny,” and “Imagefilm 018” by Sascha Ende (  |  License: CC BY (

Learning Systems Institute (1969-2019)

Florida State researchers improve teacher training and childhood literacy in Nigeria

A first-grade classroom in northeast Nigeria can be a difficult place to learn.

Classes might be filled with 100 students, and although many children speak a regional language called Kanuri, teachers often give classes in Hausa, a wider-used lingua franca. Many of the students’ parents can’t read. Teachers may not be adequately trained. And classes are happening in a region where Boko Haram has launched attacks against schools and kidnapped students.

It’s in this challenging environment that researchers from Florida State University’s Learning Systems Institute are working to improve the educational landscape. Supported by $2.6 million in funding, researchers have embarked on a series of projects to improve teacher training and literacy to help these students gain some ground.

The Learning Systems Institute, an internationally recognized, university-based research and development organization, has a long history of work in Nigeria. On a trip to the region this year, Associate Professor of International and Multicultural Education Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski saw a gleaming new school. She complimented the headmaster on the facility, and he informed her it was brand-new. It had been rebuilt after Boko Haram burned down the building for the third time.

“They just come back, and they build it again, and they keep on going,” Zuilkowski said. “It’s impressive. It speaks to people’s commitment to not letting Boko Haram win.”


Millions of students across northern Nigeria will benefit from a pair of projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The institute is a partner in the Northern Education Initiative Plus, a project to train about 20,000 teaching instructors and learning facilitators in reading instruction for young students. The project is implemented by the international development organization Creative Associates International.

The intervention helped teachers move from theory to practice in their classrooms. Instruction changed from simply exposing students to texts to classes that focus on developing skills.

One lesson involved writing letters on bottlecaps and teaching students that each cap represented a sound. The method teaches students to listen for individual sounds and to assign that sound to a letter. When students recognize the letter-sound correlations, they can combine the bottlecaps to create words. For the teachers, it was practice delivering lessons on phonics and vocabulary.

“They talked a lot about it, theoretically, but even the teacher-educators themselves had no idea how to actually do that in practice,” said Adrienne Barnes, an LSI research faculty member and the principal investigator for the project. In February, LSI members will visit the country to assess its impact.

Institute researchers are involved in other efforts to train the next generation of teachers in the country by establishing a reading research center at Bayero University in the city of Kano. As part of that USAID initiative, students from the university visit Florida State for a six-month period to take graduate classes in education and to work with a faculty mentor to design and implement a research project they carry out when they return to Nigeria.

It’s an important step toward long-term, sustainable progress in the country, said Zuilkowski, the principal investigator. Projects that rely on foreign experts eventually end. This project will create local experts in childhood reading and research, and their understanding of the on-the-ground conditions will lead to reading interventions specifically designed for Nigerian students.

“They are getting a really in-depth understanding of the current state of the research about what we know about how kids learn how to read,” she said. “We’re already starting to see that different organizations are reaching out to them when they return to work as consultants on their projects, which is really exciting because that tells us that other organizations value what we are doing and the skills the faculty are getting.”


The institute is also giving primary students in northeast Nigeria a chance to take elementary school classes in their mother tongue.

When students in that region start school, they often come from Kanuri-speaking homes. Their instruction, however, is in Hausa and English. An LSI project funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development through UNICEF developed a curriculum for Kanuri-speaking students.

FSU researchers took a curriculum for early literacy and mathematics classes that had been developed in Hausa and worked with local translators and teachers to adapt it into Kanuri and test it with second-grade students. The curriculum is now being used in first, second and third-grade classrooms in two northeast Nigerian states.

Local partnerships were especially important for this work, Zuilkowski said. The researchers who were trained by FSU were able to go into areas that would have been dangerous for her and her colleagues in order to gather information on educational outcomes that was essential for testing the effectiveness of the intervention.

When the final product was ready for publication, the creators needed to name it. The local educators who worked with FSU researchers proposed “KARI,” which stands for “Kanuri Arithmetic and Reading Intervention.” It has a second meaning. In the Kanuri language, “kari” means “light” or “torch.”

“They were very excited with the name,” said Ana Marty, an LSI research faculty member and the principal investigator for the project. “It’s like this torch and this light that is coming to the schools with these materials. The children are learning to read in their language that they know from home. They come to first grade speaking Kanuri and now they see these materials and they can understand them because it’s the language that they know.”

As LSI continues its work around the globe, future plans in Nigeria could include creating a professional development program for teachers in the country. For more information on LSI, visit

FSU’s Learning Systems Institute is turning 50 this year!


Founded in 1969, the Learning Systems Institute is one of the nation’s oldest and most productive university-based education research organizations. LSI strives to be an internationally recognized, university-based research and development organization that measurably improves the learning and performance of organizations and individuals.

The Learning Systems Institute at the Florida State University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. We are hoping to connect with researchers and educators who have collaborated with LSI at any point of its life. We intend to create a short video for the 50th anniversary celebration on November 7, 2019. For this purpose, we are collecting stories, testimonies, photos, etc. Please contact Dr. Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi should you have a story to share.

LSI currently works primarily through its two centers:

  1. Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
    A multidisciplinary research center created by the Florida Legislature and competitively awarded to Florida State University in 2007, FCR–STEM helps the State of Florida improve STEM teaching and learning in grades K-12 and prepare students for higher education and STEM careers in the 21st century.
  2. Center for International Studies in Educational Research & Development CISERD works to improve learning and instruction in developing countries through educational research and development. Since 1969, the international arm of LSI has partnered with international agencies, governments, universities, and non-governmental organizations to enable and support policymakers, researchers, and educators to implement educational projects and address sustainable development goals in more than 25 countries.

Contact LSI

(850) 644-2570
C4600 University Center
Florida State University
Tallahassee FL 32306-2540

The Nigeria Center for Reading and Development at BUK held a national reading conference in Kano, Nigeria

In August 2019, the Nigeria Centre for Reading Research and Development held the National Reading Conference at Bayero University, Kano. Approximately 800 participants attended the conference organized by BUK  with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Northern Education Initiative Plus (NEI+). Institutions and book vendors represented many states from all over Nigeria.  Drs. Adrienne Barnes, Nicole Patton Terry, Stephanie Zuilkowski, and Jarret (Jay) Terry represented the Florida State University.

The Nigeria Centre for Reading Research and Development was established as a result of the partnership between the Learning Systems Institute at FSU and the Bayero University, Kano.  For the last two years, several scholars from BUK have come to Tallahassee, Florida to engage with FSU faculty and students, participate in graduate studies and research related to early grade reading instruction. Several faculty members from the Learning Systems Institute and the College of Education have collaborated with BUK in Nigeria on developing curriculum and materials for early grade reading. They have also conducted numerous workshops for teacher educators in Nigeria and mentored university scholars in their journey towards excellence in reading research and teaching. These efforts aim to prepare future generations of Nigerian school-teachers,  and consequently improve children’s reading and literacy outcomes in the country.

Find below the link to the program and FSU presentations from the National Reading Conference held 19-23 August 2019 at the Nigeria Centre for Reading Research and Development housed at Bayero University, Kano.

Former LSI Director, Laura Blair Lang passes away on May 7, 2019

It’s with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Laura Lang, past director of the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University. She died on May 7, 2019 in a tragic scuba diving accident.

The memorial service for Laura Lang will be held on May 10, 2019  at 2:00 PM at Grace in the Mountains Episcopal Church 394 N. Haywood Street, Waynesville, NC 28786.

Alan Lang, Laura’s husband and retired FSU Psychology Professor, would appreciate a note from you recounting your fondest memories of Laura.

Alan Lang’s address is 175 Alpine Lane, Waynesville, NC 28786. Email:

In lieu of flowers, if you are so inclined, please send a donation in Laura’s name to REACH of Haywood County, an organization to combat domestic violence she worked so hard to support and promote during her retirement.

If you would like to mail your contribution, please make your check out to REACH of Haywood County and mail it to P.O. Box 206, Waynesville, NC 28786. Or, donate online via Paypal.

Laura Blair Lang – Obituary

Dr. Laura Blair Lang of Waynesville, passed away Tuesday morning in Johnson City, Tennessee, surrounded by her family.

Laura was born July 7, 1954 in Ocala, Florida, to Richard and Alice (nee Aylward) Blair. She married Alan Lang in Asheville in 2005.

Laura’s career spanned almost four decades, which included years as a special education teacher, an award-winning secondary school principal, and finally as Director of the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University.

Her mission was always to utilize and add to the scientific foundation of knowledge and to apply it for the benefit of every learner.

In retirement she contributed to the Waynesville community through her work with REACH of Haywood County and the Master Gardeners program.

Laura is survived by her husband and her children — Megan Kiernan (Jason Utton), Blair Hassler; her step-children—Jessica Simmons (Matt), Kelly Lang (Nikki), and Max Lang; and her grandchildren — Grace and Drew Kiernan, Blythe Simmons and Dorian Lang.

A memorial service for Laura will take place at 2 p.m. Friday, May 10 at Grace in the Mountains Episcopal Church in Waynesville.

Mourners are encouraged to send written recollections of their fondest memories of Laura to her husband Alan and, in lieu of flowers, to make donations in her name to REACH of Haywood County, P.O. Box 206, Waynesville, NC 28786.