University to Host International Workshop on the Teaching of English Phonics in Africa

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From 5-9 June 2006, the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, is to host a five-day workshop to give delegates from universities, associations and governments the opportunity to debate issues surrounding the teaching of English Phonics in the schools and universities of Africa. The workshop is expected to be of particular interest to those involved in the training of student teachers, speech and language therapists and teachers of the deaf, and also to government officials with regional or national responsibilities for the teaching of English literacy skills.

From 5-9 June 2006, the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, is to host a five-day workshop to give delegates from universities, associations and governments the opportunity to debate issues surrounding the teaching of English Phonics in the schools and universities of Africa. The workshop is expected to be of particular interest to those involved in the training of student teachers, speech and language therapists and teachers of the deaf, and also to government officials with regional or national responsibilities for the teaching of English literacy skills.

The aim of the sponsored workshop, Time for a New Phonics Approach for Teaching English in Africa, is to encourage collaborative research projects across Africa, to investigate the relative merits of the ‘synthetic phonics’ (blending individual sounds) and ‘analytic phonics’ (looking at letter patterns) approaches for teaching the 44 sounds and the main spelling choices of English. Both the British and Australian governments, as has been widely reported in the international press, have recently published reports stating that schools should use a ‘systematic phonics approach‘ to teach English. However, there is a big international debate about which is the best approach to use, as there is no evidence that one form of phonics is more effective than any other.

The week-long workshop in June will be led by British educational psychologist Alan Davies, the pioneer of the widely used phonics programme THRASS (Teaching Handwriting, Reading And Spelling Skills). Davies strongly recommends a combination of synthetic and analytic phonics, which is a message that has been well received in thousands of schools worldwide, mostly in the UK, Europe, Australia and, in recent years, Africa. After keynote addresses on the first afternoon, the workshop will include two days of training for the THRASS Accredited Certificate, followed by two days of visits to city, rural and township schools that are advocates of THRASS. The final afternoon will include presentations on the training of parents and the impact of THRASS in bilingual education, by teachers and advisers from the UK.

The Botswana Government is to pilot THRASS and, if successful, it will be implemented in all schools. In South Africa, the THRASS Accredited Certificate is already a compulsory module for Foundation Phase student teachers at both the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and the University of Pretoria, and other universities in Africa have also expressed interest in making it a compulsory module.

The National Union of Educators (NUE) have invited Alan Davies to address 1000 Foundation Phase teachers, as keynote speaker, at their annual conference in Johannesburg on the 20 May 2006.

Further details and an online application form for the Witwatersrand Workshop, which is being sponsored by THRASS UK, can be found at http://www.thrass.co.uk/witsworkshop.htm

Issued by: Chris Griffiths, International Development, THRASS UK

THRASS UK News Media Centre: http://www.thrass.co.uk/nm.htm

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Chris Griffiths
THRASS
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