ELIRA: Early Literacy of Roma Children from Romania: Predictors, Literacy Levels and Enhancement Strategies

ELIRA is a research capacity development project in Romania, which focuses on: a) measuring the literacy development of Roma children in Romania, in their first two elementary school years, and b) devising an intervention program that can help children face the literacy challenges during this incipient phase of their literacy development.

Project background

A key component of increasing the efficiency of intervention programs aiming to improve literacy of the Roma population is to have a good understanding of the dynamic between the educational attainment indicators and the psychological mechanisms underlying the development of literacy of Roma-ethnic children.

Photo: Crina Damsa

Various studies showed that literacy skills of Roma population are lower compared with non-Roma and ventured factors such as school absenteeism, linguistic comprehension, general cognitive abilities, cultural gaps or socio-economic status as influencing literacy development. So far, there is little scientific evidence of how exactly (and to what extent) such factors can translate into measurable literacy development indicators. It is also unclear how the literacy development rate of Roma children changes after they start school compared with their non-Roma counterparts, and which literacy indicators (e.g. letters recognition, phoneme blending, reading fluency etc.) are mastered with more difficulty. Furthermore, there are no measurable indicators that show the extent to which investment in educational programs aimed to help Roma children face the literacy challenges during the early school years can produce significant and sustainable benefits.

Project aims

Through a longitudinal study, the project aims

  • to measure the literacy predictors of Roma children at elementary school level, compared with their non-Roma peers before the beginning of formal literacy instruction.
  • to assess the development of literacy through three more assessments of literacy skills throughout the first two years of schooling (grade 1 and 2).

Finally, the project will include an intervention study aimed at measuring the efficiency of an individualized educational program focused on improving literacy skills of Roma children.

From a pedagogical practice perspective, the project aims to help teachers, schools and other education authorities in Romania to address more appropriately the literacy issues of Roma, as well as the broader (scientific and non-scientific) community to understand the nature of educational needs of Roma children.


Photo: Crina Damsa

ELIRA uses a longitudinal approach and quantitative methodologies to evaluate the level of literacy of Roma and non-Roma children involved in the project over a period of 2 years. In addition, an intensive intervention program is being developed, aimed at improving efficiency of an individualized educational program focused on improving literacy skills of the Roma children.


  • Department of Education, Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • Department of Education, University of Oslo, Norway

Timeframe and funding

ELIRA runs between July 2014 and June 2017.

The project is funded through the EEA grants program 2009-2014, managed by the external funding agency in the Romanian Ministry of Education (UEFDICI) and the Research Council of Norway (NRC). This funding scheme aims at contributing to the development of research capacity in Eastern and Southern European countries which are member of the European Economic Area (EEA).

For more information on the funding scheme

Published Sep. 18, 2014 11:53 AM - Last modified May 13, 2019 1:22 PM


Arne Lervåg




Detailed list of participants