James Tooley, Professor of Education Policy at the University of Newcastle , is currently carrying out research around the world in some of the poorest places on this planet. Interestingly and rather surprisingly James Tooley and his team are researching the phenomenon of private schools that cater for slum children in the poorest parts of India , Ghana , Nigeria , China and Kenya . The research is examining ‘budget’ private schools and considering both the quality and quantity of such schools.
Their research reveals a vibrant private-schools market in developing countries, where private schools cater for children of daily paid labourers, market traders, drivers, fishermen and peasant farmers. Parents are sometimes illiterate and have received very little schooling or education themselves. However, these parents recognise that in order for their children to succeed in life, education is of the utmost importance.
Poor parents around the world seem to be choosing private schools for different reasons in different countries. Entrepreneurs, community groups and charities have realised that parents demand private schooling, for whatever reason. Sometimes it is the breakdown of the government system that causes parents to send their children to private schools, in others, private schools are cheaper than government schools, and in some countries government schools don’t cater for the children of slum dwellers or are not welcoming to them. And in India , especially, one of the main reasons that private schools are popular is that they are English-medium, whereas government schools teach English only as a subject. But learning English is a priority for parents.
Some of the team’s major work is in the city of Hyderabad . Here in the slums there are private schools on almost every street corner. In three areas of the city over 500 private unaided schools have been located by Professor Tooley and his team. When the private-school owners were asked how their schools could be improved, the majority of them stated that they would like to improve the children’s learning of English. Therefore a programme has been set up to introduce Jolly Phonics into schools and to analyse its effect.
In order to evaluate the impact of Jolly Phonics, two groups of private-school children are taking part in the programme – the learning group, that is those children participating in the Jolly Phonics lessons, and the control group which is statistically equivalent to the learning group in all respects except treatment status, i.e., they are not receiving Jolly Phonics lessons, but are continuing with their own school’s method of teaching English. In total 556 children are participating in the study, with 293 children in the learning group and 263 children in the control group.
Jolly Phonics starter kits were kindly donated by Chris Jolly of Jolly Phonics to the Educare Trust, in Hyderabad . Six peripatetic teachers were trained, using the kits in June 2004. Each teacher has been assigned three of the learning schools and teaches Jolly Phonics every day for one hour in all of their three schools.
Prior to the commencement of teaching in July, all of the 556 students – both learning and control groups – took the Burt reading test ((1974) revised), the Schonell spelling test, a dictation test comprising of 20 sentences, and three NFER Nelson tests taken from the Diagnostic Reading Programme. The children have also taken the Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices test in order to establish their IQ.
The programme will run until the end of the year. The children will be tested again using the same tests after three months and at the end of the experiment in December. When the data have been collected the impact of the Jolly Phonics intervention will be determined by comparing the results of the learning and control groups. It is hoped that the study will provide invaluable evidence concerning the effectiveness of utilising phonetic teaching methods with young children in the slums of India . The programme has been enthusiastically received by the school owners, the children and the teachers. The findings will be reported in early 2005.