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No improvement in literacy and numeracy over 40 years

By GnT - 10 February 2008 34

Research by the ANU has shown no improvement in Australian literacy and numeracy standards since the 1960s.

The researchers say “”I feel Australian society has come a long way in that time we’re a lot richer our education attainment is a lot higher. I think we should have expected a lot more out of our schools in that time given the extra resources we’ve poured in.”

Isn’t it possible that our education has improved, but in areas other than basic literacy and numeracy? Perhaps literacy and numeracy has always been relatively high in Australia, but now we also have higher standards of critical thinking, awareness of social issues, IT skills, scientific inquiry, music, art and PE.

Just another way to think about it.


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34 Responses to
No improvement in literacy and numeracy over 40 years
Ingeegoodbee 1:41 pm 11 Feb 08

A couple of years ago I met lady who’d worked for many years as a teacher. In the course of our varied conversation she asked me what year of a kids schooling I thought was the most important. I responded with Year 12 / HSC, with my reasoning being that the results of that year would have the greatest effect on the future of that child and the education or professional choices that they could make. She responded with, “what about Prep and Year 1?” She went on to point out that if a child leaves Year 1 without being able to read well then that will directly impact upon every aspect of their learning in future years.

I took her advice and ensured that both my kids could read before they started school.

JD114 1:17 pm 11 Feb 08

Eighty percent or so of a child’s education comes from the home, the schools can at best hope to provide the other 20%. If the 80% hasn’t been taught at home, the schools unfortunately cannot make up the difference.

Society (via the medai largely) seems to be hung up on the mantra of responsibility on the part of schools at the expense of home education. A clever government would attempt to reverse that with a plan to educate parents as to their absolutely critical role in giving their kids the basics that will allow them to make use of the 20% that the schools can provide.

Ralph 11:31 am 11 Feb 08


neanderthalsis 10:49 am 11 Feb 08

I personally blame Derrida, Foucault and Freire. Pedogogical concept in literacy development has been under constant bombardment from the Marxist idealogues that focus on the sociocultural contextualisation of the pedogogical approach instead of concentrating on the development of social and human capital.

Whole of word epistemology has dominated instead of the more traditional phonic approach that deconstructs the word form and teaches individual sounds and letter combinations (called phonemes and have such interesting sub categories as the diphthong and the shwa). Whole of word lit is underpinned by the construcivist idealogy that emphasises interpretation and contextualisation of text and the free form expression in reading and writing.

My own experience as a teach of adult literacy in the TAFE system many moons ago exposed me to the by-products of the school system that were let down by the idealogues in teaching and curriculum development.

VYBerlinaV8 10:36 am 11 Feb 08

When are the taglines going to get updated?

And Ralph, I agree.

Mælinar 10:14 am 11 Feb 08

TAGLINE – Although, it must be said, plenty of people are just plain stupid.

Comment by VYBerlinaV8 — February, 2008

Ralph 10:08 am 11 Feb 08

Blame the socialists for this.

VYBerlinaV8 9:40 am 11 Feb 08

Go for it, Nyssa. Education has clearly been dumbed down, and as a society I believe we are worse for it. ‘Expressing yourself’ and ‘feeling’ seem more important than results. Which is fine on a micro level, but when these people are running the world, it spells trouble.

I’m a bit fan of going back to proper English, Maths, Science, etc, and helping kids to actually train their minds. Then, when they get into later highschool, let them choose subjects that interest them and lead somewhere after school finishes.

Although, it must be said, plenty of people are just plain stupid.

Mælinar 9:28 am 11 Feb 08

There is no such thing as a ‘brilliant idea’ from America, its an oxymoron, or americamoron as it were. The true morons in this debate are the superiors who instigated this policy, without due reference to the superior quality of teaching that was already in place.

Snahons_scv6_berlina 9:23 am 11 Feb 08

you go girl 🙂

VicePope 8:26 am 11 Feb 08

By sheer coincidence, I was speaking yesterday with a former infants (K-2) teacher last night. She said that, during the 1960s and 1970s, a whole stream of “brilliant ideas” had come, mostly from America, and teachers had been directed to follow them. One required children to learn a range of colours which could be associated with sounds, when many of them had pretty much reached the primary colours stage of distinction.

She happily ignored the directives, continued to teach the phonics approach and some grammar, and produced better results than the newbies who followed the program. (America is, of course, hardly an unqualified success story in overall educational outcomes which is why we get so many of our ideas from them).

Since then, of course, there have been many kites flown. Some of the experiments have probably worked, but mandating approaches in mainstream schools is hardly the way to experiment.

Fight the fight, Nyssa,

nyssa76 7:58 am 11 Feb 08

I will reiterate again that last year I was ‘told off’ for teaching grammar and spelling. You should have seen some of the looks I got when I said I was teaching a novel to all my students….

Anyway, I am still being ‘forced’ to teach units of work which are primary school units, instead of what is taught in at least 85% of Canberra high schools. Classic example, my 8yo son saw my PowerPoint on one unit and said “We did that last year” – he was in Yr 2 last year.

I’ll be bringing up a need to ‘change the guard’ during a meeting I have today.

Felix, you are right about it being “dumbed down”. I see it first hand.

Felix the Cat 9:08 pm 10 Feb 08

Education has been “dumbed down” IMO. Too many non-core subjects are being taught in school instead of or at the expense of the 3 Rs. Damn, I’ve turned into my parents!

Society in general has been dumbed down. How many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors do you see in newspapers and the media in general? Heaps. I don’t know how because aren’t all these publications compiled using a computer which have spell checkers as part of their software (this forum even has spell check though it is American – as is nearly everything else these days).

Mobile phones and the texting craze where words are abbreviated and spelt phonetically. Email also should share the blame, it seems to be politically incorrect to spell properly or use correct punctuation or grammer, even in the workplace.

simbo 7:49 pm 10 Feb 08

Alternatively, the non-movement in the stats may actually say something very simple – some kids GET literacy and numeracy, and some kids don’t. And no matter how many resources you throw at them… they still won’t get it.

Of course, that suggests that some kids may simply be unteachable. Which… well, isn’t the most positive way of thinking.

VicePope 6:48 pm 10 Feb 08

Without the building blocks (people who can read and write and perform some arithmetic functions), most other education is wasted. It has nowhere to go and no way for the student to grow. They cannot read further, and they cannot understand and apply what they learn. Unless they have picked up these skills at school or at home, students cannot express themselves with clarity or make a reasoned argument.

We have spent a lot of time loading schools up to substitute for what parents and society more generally used to provide, and we can hardly complain that, as a result, students cannot gain in the important core areas.

A hypothetical. If schools ran hard for the first few years on establishing what was needed and only expanded the range of what was taught when people acquired the basic skills, school for those years might be duller (as I am told it is in France). But it might also be more useful, because the minds that will receive information from the other subjects when they become available will be sharper and more ready for it. Any teachers out there?

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