Nigeria: Why pupils learning in English and mother tongue are not mutually exclusive

This blog by Kieran Cooke from the Universal Learning Solutions, explains how a synthetic phonics approach can be taken to literacy education that can mean governments don’t have to choose between either instruction in English, or in their local language; children can learn in both. The approach aims to support governments in ensuring all children learn the basics by the time they reach Primary 4.

© Rene Edde 2008

© Rene Edde 2008

Education research from across the globe has demonstrated that it is ineffective for pupils to learn to read and write by memorising, due to the limited brain capacity to memorise whole words. Instead extensive research such as that by the US National Reading Panel has shown that teaching using synthetic phonics is a highly successful alternative. This approach teaches pupils letter sounds (for example, mmm not em, sss not es) and how to blend those sounds together to read words (so d-o-g makes ʻdogʼ). At the same time they learn how to write words by segmenting a word into its sounds, and then forming letters for those sounds.

Universal Learning Solutions (ULS) delivers literacy programmes using this synthetic phonics approach in Nigeria and elsewhere. So far, over 8,000 teachers in Nigeria have been trained in teaching the synthetic phonics approach in English and over 500,000 pupils have been provided with synthetic phonics teaching and learning materials. These programmes have shown that pupils using this approach, regardless of their mother tongue language, have made significantly faster progress than those taught using whole word approaches.

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Posted in Marginalization, Ethnicity, Language, Primary school, Early childhood care and education, Literacy, Quality of education, Learning | 3 Comments

Pakistan: Children in primary schools should be taught in their mother tongue


Credit: UNESCO/Amina Sayeed

By Bushra Rahim, PhD student.

“If we start speaking other languages and forget our own, we would not be we, we would be clones of an alien people; we would be aliens to ourselves” (UNESCO, The Use of Vernacular Languages in Education, 1958)

The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) announced that the medium of instruction would change from Urdu to English in public schools from April this year. The arguments put forward for the change were to make public schools the same as private schools in the province and to provide a uniform education to all children. But did the government of KP take into consideration the following questions? 1) What is the preferred medium of instruction of parents, students and teachers? 2) What is the impact of changing the medium of instruction on educational outcomes? 3) What does international research on the subject tell us?

In order to understand people’s perceptions about their preferred medium of instruction we need to know first about the most commonly spoken languages in KP. According to the 1998 Census, 74% population of KP speaks Pashto, 3.9% speak Siraiki, 1% Punjabi, 0.8% Urdu and 20.4% speak other languages. A more recent household survey by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012 shows that the four commonly used languages in the province are: Pashto (77%), Hindko (11%), Siraiki (3.5%), Chitrali (3%) and others (5.5%). Changing the medium of instruction to English, therefore, means that most children are learning in a language that is not their own. Continue reading

Posted in Basic education, Early childhood care and education, Language, Learning, Literacy, Primary school, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Malawi: Why it’s important children learn to read in their mother-tongue

By Helen Abadzi, Radhika Iyengar, Alia Karim and Florie Chagwira – education specialists from the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, reading levels of students are far below grade level, and Malawi is no exception. Recent results of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) used by USAID and the Ministry of Education Science and Technology indicate that student reading levels are very weak, with 72.8% of grade 2 students unable to read a basic story, and 41.9% of grade 4 students unable to read a story.

In the South of Malawi in Grade 1, children are being simultaneously taught to read in English and in the local language, Chichewa. While English grammar is relatively straightforward, many English words are hard to spell and read. There are silent letters. There are multiple spellings for the same sound (eg. bear and bare) and different pronunciations for the same word (eg.row the boat, and have a row with someone). This requires children learning to read in English to memorize word lists, learn complex rules and predict unknown spellings.  Were they to learn in Chichewa which has letters that always have the same sounds no matter the formation (like most of the world’s languages) they would find reading far easier. It is therefore of grave concern that Malawi is heading towards English-only instruction in schools, and risks leaving those speaking languages such as Chichewa behind.

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP), a multi-sectoral initiative led by the Earth Institute, Columbia University has taken on this learning challenge. Community Education Workers use these with children in village learning centres. They show the children a letter, tell them its sound, showing them how that letter can sound different when attached to other letters, and then spend time asking children to practice saying them. The learning approach uses the tried and tested theories of cognitive neuroscience to teach Chichewa. This method teaches students one letter at a time, with letters spaced out and in big font, allowing students to differentiate between different letters and symbols.

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Posted in Africa, Basic education, Early childhood care and education, Learning, Literacy, Quality of education, Teachers, Training | 9 Comments

We owe all our children the benefits of quality education

By Mariam Khalique, a teacher from the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan and previous teacher of  Malala Yousafzai.

There is a saying in our national language: a teacher is like an architect who builds the soul and character of a child. Yet Pakistan is ignoring the vital importance of teachers and teaching – and our children are suffering the consequences.

I am a teacher from the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan. I taught Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl education activist who was attacked by the Taliban for exercising her right to go to school.

Even without the threat of such attacks, it is very hard for teachers in rural and remote areas in Pakistan to provide quality education. In district Swat, where I work, there are about 2,000 schools, but very few are providing quality education. In mountainous areas, where very few schools can be found, many are either ghost schools (the schools exist on paper in black and white but do not actually exist in reality or are not operational at all) or schools with no infrastructure, no system and no teaching learning process. The buildings lack proper facilities, the classrooms are not properly equipped with desks and chairs and there are no toilets in some schools. Let me tell you that it is very hard to teach and keep children’s concentration when they have no chair to sit on, and nothing to lean on to write. In short, these are schools in name only. They provide abysmal learning conditions.

At this school in Mureed Seethar village, Sindh, Pakistan, there is only one teacher for 100 pupils across five classes at the school.  Credit: UNESCO/Amima Sayeed

At this school in Mureed Seethar village, Sindh, Pakistan, there is only one teacher for 100 pupils across five classes at the school.
Credit: UNESCO/Amima Sayeed

Our schools also fail to give every child the care and attention they need and deserve. Class sizes are out of control in some areas, with one teacher for up to 150 students.

I know how hard it can be to teach if you don’t have the right support. I, too, am frustrated at hearing about so many children who are not learning in school and want to do something about it.

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Posted in Basic education, Conflict, Equality, Equity, Gender, Out-of-school children, Poverty, Teachers | 1 Comment

Wanted urgently: adequately trained teachers so all children can go to school by 2030

By Aaron Benavot, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report and Albert Motivans, head of Education Statistics at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 

A new paper jointly released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report today puts a spotlight on the global teacher shortage while identifying those countries facing the greatest needs. Under pressure to fill the gap, many countries are hiring teachers who have little or no training. Without immediate action, the shortage of teachers, especially trained teachers, will jeopardize wider efforts to ensure that all children not only go to school but also learn.Capture

How many teachers do we need? The year 2015 is just around the corner, and yet UIS data show that  countries will need to recruit about 4 million more teachers to achieve universal primary education by the deadline. Of the total number, 2.6 million would be needed to replace teachers who leave the profession, while the remaining 1.4 million must fill new positions to ensure that there are not more than 40 pupils per teacher. At least 27 million teachers would need to be recruited even if the deadline is extended to 2030, as is currently being proposed.

Some regions and countries need many more teachers than others. This interactive e-Atlas by the UIS shows which countries have teacher shortages and when they might close their gaps if current trends continue. By far, the greatest challenge is in sub-Saharan Africa. The region accounts for more than one-half (63%) of the additional teachers needed by 2015 or two-thirds (67%) by 2030.

Can countries recruit enough teachers? It is unlikely that countries with the most severe shortages can recruit enough teachers by 2015. Among 93 countries with data, only 29 countries will be able to bridge the gap by 2015, leaving 64 countries with a shortfall. It is even more worrying that 28 countries will be unable to fill the gap until after 2030, if current trends continue.

Are the costs of hiring more teachers affordable? The good news is that, if education budgets continue to grow at present rates, 23 out of the 27 sub-Saharan African countries will be able to cover the salaries of the extra teachers needed. Yet, for the Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi and Mali, bridging the gap would require a considerable increase in the education budget, according to UIS projections.

What aboCaptureut quality? Hiring more teachers is only a part of the solution. In the race to keep up with expanding school populations, many countries have expanded teacher numbers rapidly by hiring people with very little training. This may help get more children into school, lack of training jeopardizes education quality. In one-third of countries with recent data, less than 75% of primary school teachers were trained More than half the teachers were untrained in Angola, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and South Sudan.

Many poor countries do not have enough upper secondary school graduates, making it Capturedifficult to recruit enough teachers with even basic knowledge of subject matter. The constraint is most severe in sub-Saharan Africa, where the chances of even completing primary school remain low. At least 10% of all upper secondary school graduates would have to join the profession to produce enough teachers in Burkina Faso, Mali and Mozambique by 2020 with the share rising to almost 30% in Niger.

The new paper explains that, in one-third of countries across the region, the challenge of training teachers that are already in classrooms is just as large as that of recruiting new teachers to the profession. In Ghana, for example, the percentage of trained teachers fell from 72% in 1999 to 53% in 2013. The number of trained teachers would need to grow by almost 10% per year for Ghana to ensure that there will be 40 pupils per trained teacher in 2020, down from 59 pupils per teacher in 2013. This is well above the 2% average growth rate of trained teachers since 1999.

The EFA Global Monitoring Report’s interactive website, the World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE), highlights that children are learning least in remote areas. The challenge is that higher-quality trained teachers are also often less inclined to teach in remote or rural areas without incentives. In Ethiopia, for example, the percentage of lower primary teachers who were trained was as low as 1% in the Somali region and 4% in Afar, the two most remote rural regions, as compared with 43% in Addis Ababa.

Providing a good quality education for all requires working together on all fronts. This is why the EFA Global Monitoring Report has also launched an Advocacy Toolkit for Teachers along with the new policy paper, in partnership with UNESCO’s Teacher Taskforce for EFA and Education International.

The UN General Assembly is formulating a new set of sustainable development goals post-2015. In particular, Goal 4 would aim to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.” To make this goal a reality, UNESCO and the EFA GMR is advocating for a clear set of targets that can be monitored. To facilitate this process, the UIS is leading a technical advisory group to recommend a range of indicators that could be used to monitor the post-2015 goals identified by the international education community. While discussions continue, we must ensure that the training and recruitment of teachers remain high on the agenda to finally deliver on our promise to have every child in school and learning.

Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Literacy, Post-secondary education, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Rural areas, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New: Advocacy Toolkit for Teachers

CaptureToday is World Teachers Day. It is a day for teachers to speak their minds and describe the challenges and joys of their daily experiences in the classroom. It is also a day for policy makers to listen carefully to what teachers have to say, and take note of their suggestions for improvements in the future. To foster the links between teachers and policy makers, the EFA Global Monitoring Report has produced an Advocacy Toolkit for Teachers in partnership with Education International and the Teachers Taskforce for Education for All at UNESCO. This document underscores the importance of teachers playing an active role in the search for solutions to provide a quality education for all.

It is well-known that there is a huge teacher gap around the world. As was shown in the last EFA GMR, there is a chronic lack of trained teachers as well. Tomorrow, we will be releasing a new policy paper jointly with UIS showing the size and scope of the teacher shortage. This massive shortage of qualified teachers is taking its toll on the quality of education, contributing to the fact that 250 million children are not learning the basics, over half of whom are in school.

Policies and reforms to address the global learning crisis can only be effective if those responsible for implementing them are involved in shaping them. Yet policy-makers who aim to improve education quality rarely consult teachers or their unions. A survey in 10 countries showed that while all teachers thought it was vital to have influence on the direction of policy, only 23% felt they had any at all.

In some parCapturets of the world teacher unions are critically important to educational quality and have broadly positive working relationships with government and local educational employers. Virtually all top performing countries on international educational measures have strong teacher unions that participate in setting the education reform agenda. The unions provide important feedback on the actual conditions of teaching and learning. Some are capable of fostering innovation and bringing needed new educational practices into being.

Supporting teachers in the classroom and engaging teacher unions have also been shown to strengthen policies aimed at improving learning among disadvantaged students. In Bolivia, for example, unions helped ensure that indigenous rights were written into the constitution. Their promotion of instruction in indigenous languages contributed to a decrease in illiteracy.

Overall, policy-makers need to engage more closely with teachers and teacher unions. It’s high time to foster these links. The new Advocacy Toolkit contains fourteen simple steps for teachers to consider in lobbying their governments. If you’re a teacher, try it out, and keep us in touch, either by email, or on twitter. We’re happy to support where we can.

Are you a teacher? Take part in our online questionnaire to help inform the EFA GMR 2015

Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Literacy, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Post-secondary education, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Sustainable development, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Financing the massive education catch-up needed in sub-Saharan Africa  

birgerThis is the seventh in a series of blogs taking a retrospective view of the Education for All agenda and its subsequent implementation. This blog is by Birger Fredriksen, who was a member of the World Bank’s team attending the Dakar World Education Forum and now is a leading expert on the development of education in developing countries at the Results for Development Institute. Here, he reflects on the hugely higher level of education financing sub-Saharan Africa would have needed, compared to other developing regions, to reach the Dakar targets for 2015 and the importance of recognizing that this need will persist post-2015.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) needs massively increased education funding over the 2015-2030 period to catch-up with other developing regions in the provision of basic education for all. To build such basic human capital is a development stage that cannot be “leapfrogged”. How can SSA become more successful in mobilizing increased funding post-2015 than was the case after the Dakar (2000) and, especially, Jomtien (1990) world education conferences?

I attended both conferences as part of the World Bank’s team. My focus was on how to accelerate SSA’s progress towards Universal Primary Education (UPE). The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) — which had doubled from 40% in 1960 to 80% in 1980 — had declined to 74% in 1990 and barely regained its 1980 level in 2000. It was recognized among donors that scarce funding was a major factor in that slow progress and that economic decline was the main culprit. Education budgets grew by only about 1% annually between 1980 and 2000 as compared to 2.4% for the school-age population.  But it was also recognized that more funding had to go hand in hand with major reforms to transform SSA’s education systems, originally designed for an elite, into mass education systems. The lack of such reforms was also considered the key reason for the low impact of aid in accelerating progress towards UPE during the 1990s. Thus the call for more performance-based aid and the promise by donors in Dakar to help fund countries that prepared good plans.

The increased donor focus on better plans and stronger national commitment for education pre-dated Dakar. As part of the UN Special Initiative for Africa (launched in 1996), the World Bank initiated in 1997 a program to help “low enrollment SSA countries” prepare better education plans as a basis for mobilizing more domestic and external funding. This work was supported by a special Norwegian Education Trust Fund (NETF) which, over a ten year period, provided almost $50 million for this purpose. Much work was also done (and presented in Dakar) on ensuring that savings from debt relief benefitted basic education.

Credit: Tagaza Djibo/UNESCO

Credit: Tagaza Djibo/UNESCO

Following Dakar, establishing a global fund for education was also discussed. However, there was little appetite among donors for another global fund. Instead, the Fast Track Initiative (FTI) was prepared (funded by the NETF) and launched in 2002. It focused on helping countries develop good national plans, with strong domestic political ownership and financial support, and on coordinating fund mobilization among donors in support of such plans. In December 2003, an FTI fund was established principally to fund program implementation in “donor orphan” countries.

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Posted in Africa, Aid, Basic education, Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty | 7 Comments