Alphabet Headaches

Literacy challenges for non-alphabetic English learners



News from NSW, Australia (August, 2014)

"Education minister orders universities to teach phonics or face losing accreditation"

The Daily Telegraph, 10 August 2014

• This is particularly good news for those students who are biscriptal learners of English.

News from Gambia (August, 2015)

The Global Partnership for Education

"Early learning in national languages has 60% more kids reading"

In 2009, more than half of all Gambian students in Grade 2 could not read. Reading instruction, which took place in English, focused on recognizing entire words—not on connecting sounds and letters. This made it difficult for children to retain what they had learned in class.

In 2011, the Gambian government, with the support of the Global Partnership for Education, launched a national pilot program “Early learning in national languages”. Children learned reading in one of the 5 national languages. These have a more consistent relationship between sounds and letters than English does, and of course, they are the languages in which the children think. This makes it easier for the children to learn.


They were taught letters one by one along with systematic combinations to blend into words. When the pilot was evaluated in 2012 the initial results were striking.


Gambian children in Grade 1 who were part of the pilot did ten times better than children who were not part of the pilot in recognizing letter sounds and reading simple words. Even better, many children in the pilot were able to transfer their new skills to reading English words.

Ghana to halt English-medium instruction (October, 2015)

Ghana will implement mother-tongue medium, at least in the early years.


Tanzania has already planned to do likewise. (February, 2015)


If English is first introduced as a 'subject' in middle primary school, it could possibly then grow in prestige, e.g. as a compulsory subject. The important thing is to make the ideas and the practices of 'schooling' immediately understandable to youngsters. If they are rendered mute at the doorway by having to deal with English, then this sends the unnecessary message that their own language/culture and very sense of self is, somehow, not good enough.


Ending the "Reading Wars" (March 2016)

https://www.cis.org.au/commentary/articles/five-from-five-we-can-end-the-reading-wars

This page has an article that cites "Read About It: Scientific Evidence for Effective Teaching of Reading" (2016), an important report by Kerry Hempenstall - who was one of my doctoral examiners:

https://www.cis.org.au/app/uploads/woocommerce_uploads/2016/03/rr11.pdf