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Some Questions for the US Embassy Addis Ababa and USAID Ethiopia re: the change in the ordering of the Qubee alphabet.

by Teferi Mergo, PhD*

First of all, thank you for taking your time to try to clarify the issues re: the recent intervention that changed the ordering of Qubee alphabet – in which you played a key part and you are claiming is done to improve the reading skills of students in the early grades. Here are some of my questions concerning this highly sensitive issue.


  1. You claim, “…the alphabet…hasn’t been changed. The research suggested better methods to help children read more quickly – and those are the only changes that were made.”


Could you release the research paper that justified this intervention in its entirety?



  1. What are the “better teaching methods” that were implemented? Could you specify what exactly those are?


  1. Whatever those “better teaching methods” are, how did you determine their effectiveness in helping children read more quickly?



  1. Did you conduct a randomized evaluation on the population of interest?


  1. If so, could you tell us when it was implemented? Who conducted it? The study size? How the sample size was determined? Could you release the study protocol?



  1. If not, what on earth justified such intervention? A rigorous study in another context? Could you point us to such a study?


  1. That the intervention is implemented only in some parts of Oromia suggests that the experiment is probably being carried out on Oromo children as we speak, using them as “guinea pigs” to dis/prove someone’s fancy hypothesis. If so, are the subjects made aware of what is going on? If not, does this not violate the ethics of scientific endeavor? I hope we have come a long way from the days of the infamous Tuskegee experiment.



Teferi Mergo, PhD

* Assistant Professor of Economics

University of Waterloo, ON Canada

June 12, 2017

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