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A new study led by Oxford’s Department of Education will develop and test an oral language intervention for pre-school children in India and the Philippines where limited access to quality early childhood education programmes has been identified as a major forerunner to an unfolding learning crisis.

The research speaks directly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to ensure that all children ‘have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education‘.

A powerful way to ensure all children are ready for learning, particularly in school, is to offer high quality oral language education early in a child’s life. This is supported by a large body of evidence showing a combined foundation of strong spoken language and listening comprehension cascading to reading and writing skills.  But not enough is known about oral language education is multilingual settings. The ESRC and the Global Challenges Research Fund has funded £1.85 million to develop assessment tools, teacher training modules and a teacher-led programme to support children’s oral language in multilingual settings.

Dr Sonali Nag, Associate Professor of Education and the Developing Child in Oxford’s Department of Education and Principal Investigator on the project, said: “Children with a small vocabulary are at a disadvantage for all aspects of learning and unless there is targeted support, children who start slow will continue to fall behind. This research will first map opportunities and barriers to oral language development in multilingual settings and validate assessments to track children’s development in-context before examining the efficacy of a new oral language programme.”

Researchers will take a consultative approach to developing a language programme rooted in indigenous oral traditions and narratives responsive to the communities’ languages. Children who receive the intervention will directly benefit from its instruction, providing them with firm foundations for literacy learning in school. Knowledge exchange and consultative activities will provide a platform for local and international academics, civil society partners and governments interested in supporting children’s oral language development in other low- and middle-income countries.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology, the University of the Philippines, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, The Promise Foundation (India) and Interactive Children’s Literacy Programme (Philippines) will run for three years starting in January 2020.

The research team includes:

Dr Sonali Nag, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Professor Alis Oancea, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Dr Joshua McGrane, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Dr Katrina May Dulay, University of Oxford, Department of Education
Dr Shivani Tiwari, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Department of Speech & Hearing
Dr Sunila John, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Department of Speech & Hearing
Dr Gideon Arulmani, The Promise Foundation (India)
Dr Dina Joana Ocampo, University of Philippines, College of Education
Ms Portia Padilla, University of Philippines, College of Education
Ms Julie Weygan-Aparato, Interactive Children’s Literacy Programme (Philippines)
Professor Maggie Snowling, University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology
Dr Yonas Mesfun Asfaha, Asmara College of Education, Asmara, Eritria
Dr Cynthia Puranik, Georgia State University, Department of Communication Science and Disorders

Photo credit: The Promise Foundation