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Pacific Early Age Readiness & Learning Program: Every Child Ready, Every Child Learning

The children of the Pacific Islands are getting ready: ready to play, ready to learn, ready to go to school, fully equipped with the resources and the developmental skills they need to thrive, grow and contribute to their communities and their country’s economy. Once at school, they are learning to read, which in turn enables them to read to learn, opening up a world of opportunity and possibility.

This is the focus of Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning (PEARL) – a project initiated in 2014 by the World Bank with funding from the Global Partnership for Education. PEARL aims to support Pacific Island countries in identifying gaps in school readiness and early literacy, to pilot interventions to address these gaps, and to share the results with countries across the Pacific and globally.


The PEARL approach

Studies show that the earlier we invest in a child, the longer a country and the economy reap the rewards of that child’s learning. This is the essence of the PEARL program – to support children to develop key skills that are useful at school, and to help more children learn to read and write, which not only has knock-on effects throughout their own education but also has proven ripple effects for the country more broadly. Prepared Learners is one of the four pillars in the World Bank’s approach to education.

PEARL’s vision is:

  • For all children to have access to and benefit from programs in their communities that promote healthy, stimulating, and culturally-relevant experiences that prepare them for schooling and life.
  • That once in school, children are afforded the best start to their formal education through quality teaching.
  • In a number of Pacific Island countries, this has been achieved through two low-cost interventions focused on improving school readiness and early grade reading outcomes, as illustrated below.




Results of PEARL in Tonga, Tuvalu and Kiribati

PEARL has played a crucial role in promoting school readiness and improved early grades reading outcomes across the Pacific, and despite the challenges created by limited resources and capacity, activities under PEARL have shown positive results.

“We see a big difference in the children who have had some early childhood [education] experience, whether that is formally through a school-based program or informally through parents,” said Nadia Fifita, Director at Ocean of Light International School, in the Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa.

“We’re seeing not only better student reading outcomes from PEARL classrooms, but teacher confidence and ability has improved from using the PEARL training and coaching methods. PEARL-trained teachers are now taking their skills to poor performing schools and rapidly transforming students into readers,” said Mele Fisiliu, Reading Material Development Team, Ministry of Education and Training.


In Tonga

In Tonga, PEARL carried out a randomized control trial impact evaluation to provide evidence of what works for school readiness and early reading in the Pacific and why, as illustrated below. Results from monitoring and evaluation show that PEARL is successfully increasing children’s school readiness and early grades reading skills.




In Tuvalu

PEARL has also been implemented in Tuvalu since 2017, through the establishment of playgroups and introduction of reading interventions into the classroom, with positive results:



In Kiribati

PEARL reading interventions were also implemented in 2017 in Kiribati, with promising early results showing improvements in the core reading skills of Grade 1 students.



"We’re seeing not only better student reading outcomes from PEARL classrooms, but teacher confidence and ability has improved from using the PEARL training and coaching methods."
Mele Fisiliu
Reading Material Development Team, Ministry of Education and Training

Key elements of success


Gathering local evidence to inform design of interventions, then pilot, monitor and evaluate to inform plans for scale up.


Adapting interventions to local contexts, capacity and resources, aligning learning materials with existing curricula and using language-of-instruction at an appropriate level.In-service teacher training is more effective when followed up with frequent support visits from coaches providing constructive feedback.
Teaching parents how to interact with and provide stimulating experiences for their child to help them learn and grow. In Tonga this was as simple as encouraging parents to read with their child for 10 minutes every day.Gaining community and parent support is crucial to ensuring support for and sustainability of interventions.Building local knowledge in designing, implementing and adapting interventions to transfer skills and knowledge, which will remain in the country.


PEARL interventions were developed based on surveys conducted in-country, and local stakeholders have been involved in every level of the project’s design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation.

Capacity was built at the local and regional level, and knowledge shared across all Pacific countries, and beyond. PEARL is complementary to existing programs, helping to strengthen them to achieve best results, and providing advice on policy actions that can lead to improved school readiness and learning outcomes.


Human Capital Project

School readiness and early reading skills are recognized as crucial stepping stones for a child’s cognitive development, future learning, and subsequent human capital formation. That is why the PEARL program is also an integral component of the broader World Bank Human Capital Project – a global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth. The Human Capital Project identifies human capital as a central driver of sustainable growth and poverty reduction, and attempts to mobilize efforts to address significant gaps in human capital investments that are leaving countries poorly prepared for the evolving nature of the work.

The goal is ultimately a world in which all children arrive at school ready and able to learn, with the time spent in school delivering better learning, that helps children grow up to live and work as healthy, skilled and productive adults.


PEARL is scalable and sustainable

PEARL has helped governments in the Pacific identify what works for school readiness and early literacy in their own countries, and how to scale-up pilot interventions to make them sustainable and workable using limited financial and human resources.

the World Bank is committed to continue working with countries and regional institutions in the Pacific Islands to improve their human capital investments.