Monday, September 25, 2023

Learning to read in a language children understand - World Bank


Here is an article dated September 19, 2023  by the World Bank I read yesterday. LINK

Learning to read in a language children understand

Authors: Jason Weaver, Alison Marie Grimsland, Fatim Lahonri Diabagate

There are many things I would like to comment on in the article above but decided to ask just one question based on the first paragraph. This is simply because of my experience of writing comments on blogs that are left under moderation or removed. My post yesterday may explain. LINK

To the best of my recollection, the following is what I commented in the morning and by afternoon it was removed.


The article says:

To be able to read, children need to ‘sound out’ words (decode) and understand what those words mean (language comprehension). Reading comprehension is a product of these two tasks and a deficit in either skill will severely limit a child’s ability to read.

My comment:

Do you know why many intelligent kids know the sounds of letters and can speak very well but are unable to read?

Explanation now:

The simple view of reading is Decoding X Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension.

To ‘sound out words’ (decode) a kid needs to know the letter sounds. Once he knows to sound out the words fluently he needs to be able to comprehend the words which means he can read well (Reading comprehension).

A majority of kids all over the world are unable to read well. This obviously includes every country in Africa. As mentioned above, if a kid can speak well chances are he can comprehend what he decodes. So, in grade 1, the main problem is in decoding and not at the comprehension level. So, we should address the decoding issue. Why are kids unable to decode?


Questions I would like to ask:

i.                    Is the World Bank serious when they say they would like the reader’s opinion or is this just for public consumption?

ii.                  Do the Africans want to improve the reading levels of the children?

iii.               Why was my comment removed? If they needed clarification they could ask. If they have no answer they can say so but why delete my comments?

iv.                The main idea of the blog is on whether to teach kids in their mother tongue. But we need to ask why kids are unable to read before discussing whether we should teach in their mother tongue.

v.                  My email address is given as required but no one emailed me to find out more or ask for an explanation.

The article further says:

As research by Grabe and Stroller (2011) shows, native speakers often begin school with a vocabulary of 5,000-7,000 words, whereas non-native speakers may have a vocabulary in the language of instruction (LoI) of just 50 words or less, which puts them at an enormous disadvantage. This is the reality for millions of children in Western and Central Africa who are deprived of the opportunity to learn in a language they speak and understand.

So what is the point here? It appears they want to teach in an African language as kids there know only 50 words or less in English.

Is the above logical?

Pick any country where English is the mother tongue – the UK, the US, Australia or New Zealand. They are all Native English speakers and most of them speak only one language. Yet, more than 40% read below proficiency level.

Take Singapore where the National Language is Malay and the non-Malays have to learn their mother tongue as well. How did the Singaporeans who study in English Medium schools do better than all of the English-speaking countries? Look at the PISA test results. LINK.

Let us try and get some answers to the questions above before we continue with the rest of the article.

Note: The article above appeared on LinkedIn and was posted by Nora Marketos who says she is a Strategic Advisor, a Board Member and an Advisor. She has yet to answer my question 

She said: There is an extensive set of research showing that learning how to read is not naturally acquired like learning how to speak. 

My question:  Nora Marketos Thank you. How does one do research to say if reading is naturally acquired? This is something I would like to learn from you.

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