Australia: New curriculum aims to improve literacy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Oct 17 19:32:57 UTC 2008

New curriculum aims to improve literacy
 October 17, 2008 - 10:42AM

School teachers will have to be retrained as part of a new proposed
English curriculum designed to lift the spelling, grammar and literacy
skills of Australia's 3.5 million students. The National Curriculum
Board wants English taught as a language, including its grammar,
punctuation and spelling, for all students from kindergarten to year
12. Board chairman Professor Barry McGaw said the renewed focus,
contained in its proposed national English curriculum released on
Friday, would help raise literacy standards for students of all ages.

But head of the English advisory group Professor Peter Freebody
admitted that today's teachers did not have the skills at this stage
to carry out the board's grand plans. "Many of the teachers don't have
the skill levels at this point but we're not talking about turning
people into professional linguists," he told reporters. "All this will
be very learnable for them." Prof McGaw said a national policy would
allow education authorities to make the curriculum more systematic,
more intensive and more closely monitored.

"Since I taught high school and saw kids struggling with basic things,
it's been clear to me that there hasn't been enough routine provision
and support for basic literacy skills through those years to maintain
what's begun in the early years," he said.

Prof McGaw said there were complaints that primary school English had
lost the literature component while secondary school English had lost
the literacy component.

"This curriculum will expand those envelopes in those directions - it
will move the systematic study and engagement with literature into the
primary school and will move systematic support for, and learning
about, stronger literacy skills into the secondary school," he said.

Andrew Rimington, a policy adviser for the Victorian Employers Chamber
of Commerce and Industry, said it was clear from job applications and
resumes that young people just out of school struggled with numeracy
and literacy.

"Resumes are riddled with misspellings," Mr Rimington said.

"Employers have been reporting their increased concerns over the past
few years about their efforts to recruit, particularly young people,
who are demonstrating in their applications or CVs that they do have
apparent numeracy and literacy difficulties."

Mr Rimington cited a recent example where a veterinarian practice took
on a young index clerk only to find the new staff member did not know
the alphabet.

"He couldn't do the job because he couldn't file," Mr Rimington said.

If the national curriculum package, which includes science and
history, gets the go-ahead it will start to be implemented from 2011.

Federal Opposition spokesman on education Christopher Pyne said he was
pleased to see the board had recognised the need for students to have
a solid foundation in grammar, spelling and punctuation.

The Opposition has been calling for the curriculum's architects to
take a back-to-basics approach.

"We are pleased that this early advice suggests that the concerns of
the opposition, parents, business and universities are being heard,"
Mr Pyne said.

"A strong grounding in the fundamentals will hopefully diminish the
need for universities to provide remedial literacy courses."

(c) 2008 AAP

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