BigPen Kenya - Education21


Major Goal

Our goal is to bring willing parents, teachers and educationists together to learn, practice and share Education21 skills in free online workshops. BigPen adapts the Education21 learning and teaching skills from Enabling Support Foundation within the peaceflame network. Visit .The experiment documented by BigPen in Kenya is used as a model by Ghana, Sierra Leon, Rwanda and some part of Uganda and Pakistan.


Emerging issues that are addressed by BigPen Kenya are:

  1. BigPen conducts online open discussion topics that helps to identify the best way to engage the needs and challenges facing education sector.
  2. Motivate, inspire and expose children, parents, teachers, educators, schools and curriculum developers to learn about Education21 teaching and learning skills. BigPen helps everyone to join the peaceflame network and advocate for Education21.
  3. Experimenting and Conducting Education21 classroom techniques through a online series of tactics for the purpose of teaching and learning. These skills Early Reading, Subitizing, Speed Reading and Keyboarding. BigPen develops a gallery of Education21 videos and pictures for documentary that will help in reference.
  4. BigPen SACCO gives loans to members upto 3 times of a members savings.
  5. BigPen Adverts solves common challenges such us advertising job opportunities, provides alternative cost saving fuel, supplies stationery, sales learning materials, and gives professional consultancy. BigPen also designs school logos, school calendars, graduation certificates, signage, book covers, business cards and e.t.c. at affordable prices. BigPen also offers transport for educational trips for learning visits.
  6. Nurture a Culture and Dance Program through Kucheza Kuimba to exhibit talent among children and youth. 


Keynote Information

Saving 2 years of learning and teaching will be the greatest finding to the audience during this conference presentation. This presentation suggests that E21 as an alternative to the current traditional education. The presentation explores early reading with illustration. The audience will discover two unexpected side block buster benefits; they are speed reading and Subitizing in pre primary (years before a child join primary) and Primary. You can follow up to discuss how early reading frees time to add a new topic of subitizing that complements estimation and spreadsheets for primary children.

Terms to Learn

  • Education21: This means Education for the 21st Century. Here, E21 will be use as an abbreviation.
  • Traditional Education: Any form of Education that relies fully on old 19th Century philosophies. Here, TE will be used as an abbreviation.
  • Speed Reading: Speed reading means children reads silently without saying the word and tells what the word, sentence or paragraph means. Speed reading is advanced form of Early Reading.
  • Early Reading: Early Reading is a skill of teaching reading by the word with the aim of helping the learner understands the meaning of the spoken word and written word simultaneously.
  • Subitizing: The ability to tell the number of objects in a set, quickly, without counting.

Illustration 1: Early Reading.

A child learns the meaning of the spoken word "cat" before the child can say the word "cat". It is a simple and easy task and children learn many words before they can say them. Have ever observed how a mother or a caregiver introduces a word to a toddler; lets say 10 months old? The child is taught how to say a full word.

Why take long in learning how to read?

If a toddler can speak a new word is so, why does it take 5 years when starting preschool years for the child to read the written word "cat" means the same thing? The only reason is the traditional way we teach reading --- letter and sound. Early Reading teaches reading by the word, not by sound, and children can learn to understand the spoken word and written word simultaneously. After they can read cat, now, teach the spelling and letters. To help children know the spelling and letters.

Traditional Education (Referring to phonetic decoding)

Phonetic decoding works, but takes longer and wastes time. And it does not help dyslexic children. Research reports(Google search ) have shown that 20% of all children in the world are slow learning because of phonetic decoding, because the facilitator is advised to use only one way to introduce a child to reading, that is , by use if sounds. BUT Early reading encourages teachers (facilitators) to use all kind of effort to explain to the child the meaning of the word You can use ANY mother tongue Or Kiswahili to explain. The children first understand Kiswahili/mother tongue.

Illustration 2: Introduction to Speed Reading.

Early Reading develops to speed reading, which is a multi-lingual teaching skill. It works with everyone when teaching reading in every language. For Example , Use mother tongue/Kiswahili to explain the meaning of the word cow? In Kiswahili, Cow is called Ngombe. Ask the child to think (using her natural mental imagery ability) about Ngombe (which is a Kiswahili word). What do you predict comes in the mind of the child? Maybe that Ngombe either has four legs, gives milk, meat, skin, manure, produces a mow sound and is kept at home. Tell the child that Ngombe mean the same animal as cow. If you now say cow, show the child the card written cow, the child will talk more about the cow. Cow is a full word. It has meaning to the child and it is easy for the child to understand the meaning of both the written and spoken word at the same time. Speed Reading already has saves two years of education and now we add Subitizing due to saved plenty of saved time.

Illustration 3: Speed Reading at mastery level

Speed reading means the learner do NOT say the word loudly. They must be silent. The facilitator flashes a word and asks them to point to a picture in silence. When introducing a learner to speed reading, a picture may be used to a static example linking a word to meaning. At mastery level, mental imagery is the raw meaning the child will be thinking when speed reading, therefore no picture is required at this level. This is because when he child knows what the word means the picture narrows the scope of meaning to that particular object, but the child should be left to think, and expand imagination. Build up this skill with more words and then start sentences. Here the facilitator does not need pictures because the child is asked what the sentence means. They may use different words and still get the meaning. When learners can do that, they are speed reading. Children may automatically say the word out loud, and the facilitator may have to remind them not to say loud, but with time, children always masters quick. The facilitator flashes a word and points to a picture. Then flashing 2 or more words and asks the child to point to the pictures. Then move on to multiple words. All the time the child does not speak the word on the flash, but says what it means the word on the flash card mean. There is something to think about. Many Asian languages are not phonetic, but pictographic. They do not phonetic decode and so naturally speed read. Does that give them an advantage of saving 2 years or more of the years we waste in Learning and teaching Reading in English?

Speed reading challenge against phonetic decoding.

How long will you take to explain the word cow means Ngombe to a child? Just seconds/minutes, not even a day. Remember, here, the teacher does not use sounds that make up the word cow. This means, there is a delay problem with the current traditional phonetic decoding, that starts with exposing individual sounds to the child, to teach meaning of a word.

World mistake!

It will take a qualified (from all colleges and Universities all over the world) and very experienced teacher 1 year to introduce sounds from a to z. Imagine 1 full year only teaching sounds, no written word is introduced. Only quick learners will memorize how different letters produce sounds. Slow learners will not. 20% of all population in the world is slow learners. After the first year , no child can read a full written word, because the teacher limits the child only to know sounds.This is wastage of time of the young children. In the second year, a teacher will take another year to teach syllables. When I say syllables, I mean a, ba, ca, da...... b + a builds ba. 1st year was limited sounds. All syllables take almost 1 full second year. Now the child is limited by an instructor this time(another year) with syllables. A quick learner child will go to PP2 knowing only sounds and syllables. With a slow learner, you wasted both a time for 2 years, and also they are not able to recognize sounds to letters.

Conclusion on Early Reading and Speed Reading.

How will Speed Reading help? Children can read quick and early for meaning. Children are able to read a full word, without starting with sounds, the same way the child can speak the whole word without using the sound. Reading can take the same shortest time as speaking. Then Speed Reading saves time for the child, and the saved time can be use to experience and nurture Subitizing skills. The 21st Century needs more time to be spent on emerging issues than the time spent on traditional way of learning.


Traditional education says subitizing disappears in childhood. Subitizing is lifelong. Think of how a mother masters the amount of salt enough to be added to by her palm in a cooking pot, and the salt becomes enough and nicely balanced. The same with a painter who gives a quotation of number of tins to be use in a room/building and it becomes a real estimation. Subitizing is in born to all, but it should be rehabilitated in school to help children enjoy its ability for life. Children are introduced to Subitizing by the use of flashing cards with both numbers (from 1 to 9) and dots/objects that represent the value of the dots on the cards. The child is asked to estimate the number of dots on each card without physical counting. Children advances in speed and accuracy as they get used to the skill.


Join Education21,

BigPen Kenya & Enabling Support Foundation.

Nairobi, Kenya