2023 Phonics Update
Together We Learn started working with Jolly Phonics in 2013 (formerly as Link Ethiopia), initially as our ‘Libraries and Literacy’ project. The project’s aim has always been to improve the English literacy skills of children in Ethiopia by training their teachers in the Jolly Phonics teaching method. Jolly phonics helps teachers to teach English with a fun, child-centred approach, using letter sounds. This is especially important in Ethiopia where children are expected to learn all subjects in English from secondary school, yet often wouldn’t know even the basics using the traditional techniques of alphabets and dictation.
What have we done this year?
After steady progress scaling the project over recent years, in October 2022 we trained and provided materials to 370 teachers from over 200 schools in the Amhara and Oromia regions. The training lasted three days and everyone left with the skills and materials to teach their students English using the Jolly Phonics method. Later in the year a two day refresher training was provided, every school was monitored and impact tracked throughout the year.
This was the first year that the project was delivered in partnership with, and supported by the Amhara Regional Education Bureau. This governmental organisation were impressed by the outcomes for students in our pilots and are keen to expand the impact for more students across the region. Their support with transport and subsistence costs for trainees this year meant we were able to scale from training 40 schools last year to 200 this year – the largest number in a single year yet! They also approved training for Education Supervisors, who are responsible for monitoring standards at clusters of schools, so that they could provide continuing support for, and report on the progress of, trained teachers throughout the year. These strategies and local government support for an NGO’s work were a unique and important parts of mapping out the sustainability of this project.
We’re also grateful for the ongoing support from Jolly Futures who provided all materials and funded the trainers. 48,400 pupil books and 100 teachers books, were funded by Jolly Phonics, alongside many other multi-sensory materials to add imagery and play to the children’s learning.
In addition to the teacher training, two members of the Together We Learn Ethiopian team, Elsa and Zemene, became qualified Jolly Phonics trainers. We have identified a number of trainees from this year whose application of the training in class was outstanding, in order to develop their skills and potential as future trainers. We also continued to work with the Colleges of Teacher Education in the Amhara region to review curriculum and agree the best way to include the Jolly Phonics method in training for new teachers. These developments strengthen our ability to scale the project in Ethiopia, delivering training where and when it’s needed.
In July 2023 we were especially pleased that Elsa was able to attend the international Jolly Phonics conference in the United Kingdom. Elsa is our Ethiopia Country Director and this was her first visit to the UK. Elsa attended the conference with a number of our UK staff where she received further training and presented our work as part of the initiative to share best practice from around world.
% Improvement in All English Language Measures (Control Schools vs. Trained Schools)
The project reached around 38,000 young children in Ethiopia this year. In order to assess the impact 200 students from 12 project schools and 3 control schools were randomly selected and tested on their ability to read and understand English at the beginning and at the end of the year. Our results show that the students of trained teachers outperformed control school students in all measures by at least 33%, and as much as 63%. Starting with little to no English, children taught using traditional methods failed to make significant progress. Jolly Phonics taught children however could identify 29 of the 42 sounds, as well as read, write and spell many more words.
The training also has a significant positive impact on teachers. They are more motivated when equipped with skills, ideas and materials to provide engaging and effective lessons. They can see the enthusiasm and academic progress of their students when they use this methodology which inspires them in their English teaching.
Continual monitoring, observations and supervisions enable our staff to identify gaps and ensure teachers get the best support to continually implement Jolly Phonics effectively. We are delighted to have now confirmed the continued commitment of the Amhara Regional Education Bureau to train a further 300 schools in the next academic year, and to have also secured the support of the Oromia Regional Education Bureau to train 350 schools in their region!
We will continue developing local capacity through training of local education officials, collaboration with Colleges of Teacher Education and further skills training for teachers with potential to become Jolly Phonics trainers.
We thank you for your support to date, and if you would like to support this project, bringing English literacy, and accessible education to children throughout Ethiopia, donate or contact our team below.