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Enhancing Literacy Through ‘Jolly Phonics’



A new World Bank report released recently says that only about 20 per cent of young Nigerian adults, who have completed primary education, can read. HENRY TYOHEMBA, in this report, takes a look at the 21st century method of teaching reading in early grade levels called ‘Jolly Phonics,’ as a way to improve reading skills in Nigeria.


o have a strong foundation in English literacy nowadays is believed to be a very fundamental prerequisite for children to survive and succeed, both in their educational and social lives.

Such has been a major issue with the Nigerian child as majority of them head into secondary schools with the future uncertain.

One of the most effective tactics for enhancing children’s early reading and literacy skills is through Jolly Phonics, a multi-sensory synthetic phonics method that gets children reading and writing from the early age.

This means that children are taught letter sounds with the right tools used to decode the English language. When reading a word, they recognise the letters and blend together the respective sounds.

Despite the popularity and its effectiveness, there are still factors responsible for the absence of the strategy, namely lack of teachers’ knowledge and some schools yet to accommodate it into their system.

Jolly phonics, which teaches children how to read and write using synthetic phonics, is widely recognised as the most effective way to teach children to read and write in English. The result of this famous method of teaching led to phonics becoming central to the UK curriculum, which is also one of the worlds’ most advanced, educationally.

LEADERSHIP Sunday checks revealed that most of the schools in the urban centres have embraced the modern method and it is having a drastic positive impact on the children as most can now read efficiently even in primary two.

Whereas, some schools dwelling in remote areas are not likely to get familiarised with the method, this however, calls for a need to install this into the curriculum in order to make it compulsory for all the schools to adopt this method of teaching.

In one of such, the principal of Santus Lumen Christy College, Abuja, Isaac Moji, revealed that with Jolly Phonics, His son in primary three, Senator, can read perfectly like an adult.

The World Bank report further warned that there is a looming learning crisis in global education, pointing out that schooling without learning was not just a wasted development opportunity, but also a great injustice to children and young people worldwide.

There is no fact denying that those children, who achieve a good start in the first few years of reading are very likely to have accelerated progress in their attainment throughout school as they engage with the curriculum. They are also very likely to achieve the skills valued by employers.

Moreover, there is no doubt that reading can change lives and can create opportunities which may otherwise be denied. Reading is a powerful, life-enhancing skill which is the entitlement of every child.

The new synthetic phonics system, which is being embraced by over 100 countries worldwide, is a method of teaching reading that ensures virtually all children can learn to read quickly and skillfully.

Children are taught the correspondences between sounds (Phonemes) and letters. They identify and blend different letter sounds and letter combinations together to make a word. Through this, children take the first important steps in learning to read. They can also use this knowledge to begin to spell new words they hear.

The executive secretary, National Commission For Colleges of Education (NCCE), Professor Muhammad Babba Aliyu, recently said the commission is leveraging on enshrining the internationally recognised method of teaching reading known as Jolly phonics in the NCCE curriculum.

He said this while speaking recently in Abuja at the international symposium tagged, ‘the Future of Teaching Early Grade Literacy in Nigeria,’ organised in partnership with Universal Learning Sloutions (ULS) to develop a first class pre-service teacher training in Nigeria.

He said it is of a great disservice to the Nigerian child that after primary school, he still remains illiterate. Represented by the director of academic, Mr Vitalis Uji, the NCCE boss said, ‘Now that submissions are being collated in preparation for NCE national review workshop on languages, my desk officer and the participants will leverage on the insights espoused in this workshop to ensure that this internationally recognised method of teaching reading is enshrined in the NCCE curriculum.”

Recently, commenting on the need to embrace this Universal method of learning, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) said that the federal government has invested about N2 billion on the introduction of jolly phonics teaching method in schools across the country.

The fund, according to the commission, was to provide funds for the state government for implementation of the jolly phonics projects in schools by UBEC under its teacher professional development fund.

The public relations officer of UBEC, Mr Ossom Ossom, said the landmark achievements were recorded through partnership with the UK-based educational publisher-Jolly Learning Ltd, and the not-for-profit organisation, Universal Learning Solutions.

According to him, through the partnership, on the Jolly phonics project, over 50,000 teachers in public schools across 31 states in the country have been trained and have reached approximately 3.5 million children.

He further added that, the result from the beneficiary states have highlighted how children, taught by Jolly phonics trained teachers to read and write, were significantly above those taught by teachers who have not been exposed to the jolly phonics method.

On his part, the central executive officer (CEO) of Jolly Phonics, Mr Gary Foxcroft, said the method of learning was introduced to Nigeria in 2012 to help children to read and write as many are leaving primary school without knowing how to read.

According to him, “We are looking at how we can ensure teachers have systematic synthetic phonics and resources to help children to read and write in order to ensure that all the children are learning to be literate.”      

It is however, of importance to note that most of the states in Nigeria are wholly embracing this new method of teaching in order to boost the standard of literacy in the country.

Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and Universal Learning Solutions (ULS) for instance, have recently partnered to deliver intensive training to over 500,000 teachers and dedicated government officials in Jolly phonics.

There is need for other states to key into this to save the future of our children.