Phonics Around The World
Phonics Around The World

Many English speaking countries use synthetic phonics to help children to become better readers.


In the Australian national curriculum, Phonics Knowledge and Word Recognition (PKW) is regarded as crucial for fluent reading. Rather than assigning an age or class/grade level to specific phonics skills, they are classified by level.

A child at PKW4, for example, should be able to say the most common phoneme for all single-letter graphemes, to write the correct graphemes for these phonemes, to blend them to read vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, and to segment them in order to write these words and read them aloud.

A child at PKW5 can give examples of different letter combinations that are used to represent the same phoneme, read single-syllable words with double letters and consonant digraphs, read short and long vowels, single-syllable words with common long vowels, and one- and two-syllable words with common suffixes such as -ing, and -ed.

At PKW7, children can read consonant blends (e.g. CCVCC as in trust) and can apply common phonics generalizations (rules) such as when to use a soft c, which has an s sound, and when to use a hard c, which has a k sound.


Phonics is closely integrated into the Bahamian English curriculum.

Grade 2 students are expected to demonstrate knowledge of letter-sound relationships. For example, they should identify sounds associated with consonant blends, digraphs and long and short vowels. In Grade 3 they are expected to identify sound-symbol relationships when reading new words, and in Grade 4 the use of phonetic clues should be one of the strategies they us to read and understand key vocabulary.


Literacy rates in Malta are much lower than the European average. The introduction of the UK phonics programme to Malta in 2014 was welcomed as an important step to improve this situation. However, some educators believed that the unique challenges of English education in Malta could reduce the effectiveness of a phonics programme. Malta has two official languages, English and Maltese, and a 2016 report by the European Literacy Policy Network noted that Maltese was the home language of 88% of 15 year old students. Consequently, the phonics system may need to be adapted for pupils experiencing difficulties with English.

- Should Malta use phonics? - Times Of Malta
- Literacy in Malta


Because hundreds of different languages are spoken in Nigeria, English remained the official language of the country after independence. All children are taught in English from their fourth year of school onward, no matter what their mother tongue.

Maltese educators might be interested to learn that research on literacy programmes in Nigeria has shown that synthetic phonics produces superior results. In one study, the children who received 36 weeks of phonics instruction were 17 weeks more advanced than pupils taught using the whole language method. In another study, pupils whose mother tongue was not English who received phonics instruction showed better reading progress than English speaking pupils who did not.

Nigeria: Why pupils learning in English and mother tongue are not mutually exclusive - World Education Blog


Singapore places a high value on education. The Singapore education system is considered one of the best in the world . and the country had a reported adult literacy rate of 96.8% in 2015 . The Singapore English language syllabus stresses a combination of bottom-up (synthetic phonics) and top-down (whole word) reading strategies, and views phonemic awareness as an important predictor of reading success. The goals of phonics instruction outlined in the curriculum include the ability to divide words into syllables, to blend sounds, to segment words into individual sounds, to be able to make analogies from known words in order to pronounce unknown words.

- Why is Singapore’s school system so successful, and is it a model for the West? - The Conversation
- Singapore - Adult (15+) literacy rate - knoema

St Kitts and Nevis

The St. Kitts and Nevis Ministry of Education advocates the use of phonics for young readers and recommends Phonics First Foundations as a reference book for teachers. Key reading competencies specified by the Ministry include phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics decoding strategies, recognition of long and short vowels and letter digraphs, and using a knowledge of letter-sound correspondence when sounding out unfamiliar words.

United States

Guidelines for English Language Arts in the U.S. are provided in the Federally mandated standards of the Common Core. While not as specific as the UK curriculum, the Common Core provides phonics benchmarks from Kindergarten to Grade Two.

Kindergarten children are expected to develop phonological awareness and to apply age appropriate phonics and word analysis skills, demonstrate knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences, and correctly associate long and short vowel sounds with common spellings.

In Grade One children should have sufficient phonological awareness to understand spoken phonemes, to tell the difference between long and short vowels, to segment, isolate and pronounce initial, medial and final phonemes in single syllable words and to blend sounds to produce single-syllable words. They should also be able to apply phonics and word analysis skills to decode regularly spelled one-syllable words, be familiar with common consonant digraphs, know spelling conventions for representing long vowel sounds, and decode two-syllable words by breaking them into syllables, using the knowledge that every syllable must contain a vowel.

Teachers are expected to continue building phonics and word recognition skills in Grade 2. Specific skills listed include recognizing long and short vowels based on spelling patterns, reading digraphs such as kn and mb that contain silent letters, decoding two-syllable words with long vowels and multiple syllable words with common prefixes and suffixes, reading multisyllabic words, and reading grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

Other Countries

Some countries, such as Ireland and New Zealand, continue to favour a whole language approach to reading. However, this may be changing. A recent article in Education HQ New Zealand reported that literacy levels in New Zealand were lower than those in Australia, where synthetic phonics is part of the curriculum. However, at the time the article was written many teachers were taking the initiative to use phonics in the classroom, and this was expected to improved educational outcomes .

A survey of the use of phonics in English classrooms around the world shows that synthetic phonics may meet a variety of educational challenges. Phonics is helping to improve basic literacy in Nigeria and Malta. It is also helping Singapore to create a literate and educated workforce which is able to compete successfully in a modern, high-tech world.

- Phonics on the rise in New Zealand - EducationHQ