Skip directly to content

Minimize RSR Award Detail

Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Michel A DeGraff
  • (617) 258-5270
Award Date:08/18/2010
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 200,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 200,000
  • FY 2010=$200,000
Start Date:09/01/2010
End Date:08/31/2013
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.076
Primary Program Source:040106 NSF Education & Human Resource
Award Title or Description:Kreyol-Based and Technology-Enhanced Learning of Reading, Writing, Math, and Science In Haiti
Federal Award ID Number:1049718
DUNS ID:001425594
Parent DUNS ID:001425594
Program Officer:
  • Finbarr Sloane
  • (703) 292-8465

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:07

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cong. District:07

Abstract at Time of Award

This RAPID project aims at developing, evaluating and refining Kreyòl-based and technology-enabled learning environments for elementary schools in post-earthquake Haiti, and to initiate research on the effects of native (vs. non-native) language and student-centered technology in reading, writing, math and science. Such a study will provide crucial data toward improving education in Haiti, especially future implementation of policies on the respective roles of Kreyòl vs. French in Haitian schools. The main hypothesis of the project is that Kreyòl-based and technology-enhanced education will help create more progressive, collaborative, student-centered, and inquiry-based materials and methods. These resources can constructively enlist Haitian children's cognitive, linguistic and cultural assets to help them achieve academic levels that have been lacking so far. This project will undertake an empirical study on the impact of Kreyòl-based and technology-enhanced pedagogical materials and methods on the academic performance of Kreyòl-speaking students. The project will use various methods such as informal pilot programs for comparison, initial development and refinement of Kreyòl-based and technology-enhanced learning environments, and qualitative assessments. The results of such an evaluation will help inform curriculum reforms and teacher training during reconstruction of post-earthquake Haiti. Furthermore, the results of this research may also shed light on issues in U.S. education related to immigrant and minority populations with native languages or dialects that are distinct from mainstream varieties of English. More generally, the findings from this project will bear on all educational contexts where students are taught in an "official" language that is distinct from their native "vernacular" language. This project further aims to plant additional seeds for research and teaching partnerships that will benefit society at large, including schools in Haiti and elsewhere.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.


In Yves Dejean’s  book Yon lekòl tèt anba nan yon peyi tèt anba (An Upside Down School in an Upside Down Country), Haiti’s schools are shown to be dysfunctional.  There, as in other Haitian institutions, the formal language is mostly French even if spoken by less than 5% of the population.  Kreyòl, though spoken by all, is most often excluded from books, exams, official documents, etc.

To put Haiti upside up, schools must ensure proficiency in literacy, mathematics, science, etc. This concern underlies our research on Kreyòl-based and technology-enhanced interactive pedagogy.


Hypothesis: Active learning in Kreyòl improves education, especially for students who speak Kreyòl only (~95% in Haiti).

Participatory pedagogy in Kreyòl that promotes critical thinking and problem solving must replace rote-memorization of French texts that most students barely understand.


  1. Evaluation of literacy at the Lekòl Kominotè Matènwa (LKM) in La Gonâve, Haiti;
  2. Development and evaluation of Kreyòl-based and technology-enhanced tools for active learning of mathematics at LKM.

Key outcomes in literacy:

In 2010–2011, LKM students in 1st–3rd grades were evaluated with the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) tool (

Results: Early graders at LKM are much better readers than counterparts in a World Bank / USAid study, including students in World Bank-funded schools ( LKM 3rd graders read an average of 60 words/minute whereas their counterparts’ average is 23 words/minute.  Unlike non-LKM schools, LKM teaches exclusively in Kreyòl when children start school.

LKM was awarded an All Children Reading: Grand Challenge grant from USAid, World Vision and Australian Aid ( to spread LKM’s “Mother-Tongue Books” (MTB) model to 5 other schools (, See MTB sample at

An EGRA-based evaluation of LKM vs. 5 non-LKM schools in 2011–2013 showed that the non-LKM schools, thanks to MTB, substantially narrowed the literacy-proficiency gap with LKM within one and a half year.

Key outcomes in mathematics:

Computer- and Kreyòl-based interactive pedagogy made learning joyful and deepened interest in mathematics, which interest was also expressed through song and dance:

Exit interviews with students and teachers suggest that the intervention contributed self-pride and a more positive attitude toward mathematics.  Teachers reported improvement in their understanding of difficult concepts.  They also reported friendlier teacher-student relationships through collaborative play—all too rare in Haitian schools whose modus operandi is usually authoritative, test-driven and rote-based.

Of note, the activities introduced through the 2010–2011 pilot are still in use, even in Summer Camps:


This project is the first empirical study of Kreyòl-based and technology-enhanced interactive pedagogy, suggesting that Kreyòl can improve education in Haiti.

One oft-heard criticism is that Kreyòl will “isolate” Haiti.  But what has isolated Haiti is ignorance, poverty and underdevelopment—not Kreyòl.  It’s well documented that the native language helps build strong academic foundations that enhance the learning of (e.g.) second languages ( LKM children succeed through Kreyòl and good pedagogy.  They also learn French, as second language. In 2014–2015, all 25 6th-graders passed the official “Certificat” exam (the national success rate was 71%;

Our results have highlighted some of the necessary conditions for success in literacy and mathematics—key skills to acquire in early grades, toward national development.  These results may also bear on U.S. education, especially among non-English immigrant populations.

Our current NSF project (“Kreyòl-Based Cyberlearning for a New Perspective on the Teaching of STEM,” targets university and high-school teachers.  It is such faculty who can enlist other teachers, at all levels of the school system, into a nation-wide paradigm shift toward active-learning in Kreyòl.

Joining this paradigm shift, Haitian leaders have included our results in pleas for Kreyòl as language of instruction: , , , ,

Another impactful development is the production, in collaboration with Mandaly Louis-Charles, of the first Kreyòl alphabet songs:

On July 8, 2015, Haiti’s Ministry of National Education and the Haitian Creole Academy, of which I am a founding member, signed a historic agreement to generalize the use of Kreyòl at all levels of education:,,,

We now have proofs of concepts that local languages are viable as tools to improve education on a global scale. Haiti can become a model for the use of local languages in educational technology, alongside countries like Finland which now has one of the best school systems in the world. Digital-learning tools should incorporate local languages so that technology-enabled education can have truly global reach.  Ultimately this is a human-rights issue (,

Dissemination of results:

As Nesmy Manigat (Haiti’s Minister of Education) recently explained, Kreyòl is indispensable for creating schools where all children have equal opportunity to succeed.  Eventually it is students, parents and their communities who will most forcefully promote  Kreyòl in schools and beyond.

Meanwhile here are some links for more information:


Last Modified: 08/17/2015
Modified by: Michel A Degraff

For specific questions or comments about this information including the NSF Project Outcomes Report, contact us.