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Re: Half of all Tasmanians are functionally illiterate and innumerate: VV 12 October 2013
Mr Jensen’s suggestion of moving students into better, larger schools “to afford specialist literacy and numeracy teachers that would benefit all students” does not address any of the root causes of this serious, complex and societal problem.
Firstly, education begins at home long before children commence school. Parents have a responsibility to help their children to learn and grow and function in the world they brought them into. You can have all the specialist
teachers in the world but if that child does not have a home where parents support and assist their learning, as I have seen first hand in my experience as a school executive officer, that child remains illiterate, innumerate and condemned to lifelong poverty, not only financially but mentally, spiritually and emotionally – condemned to a life of “low expectation” that they in turn pass on to their children and their children’s children.
That “the education system in Tasmania has a history of low expectations” is not only a condemnation of the system but a tragic reflection on Tasmanian society as a whole. Where have these “low expectations” come from and what has created them?
Systems do not create themselves, they are created by people, so successive Tasmanian governments must share the blame as must we, the people who voted for them. Statistics show that Tasmania has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in Australia – the first being the Northern Territory. Statistics also show that a high number of children in this state are classified as being disadvantaged – is this a result of “low expectations?”
It is a sad fact that literacy and its teaching all over Australia has suffered from the so called “literacy wars” where states and academics have fought over how literacy
should be taught since the seventies. No national curriculum has meant that standards varied from state to state, impacting both teachers and children.
In 2008 when attending an orientation course at UTAS, I was asked not to answer the simple grammatical questions the facilitator put to the class because she was aware that I had been taught these things and that many of these young men and women who had just finished high school and were entering university did not know the difference between “its” and “it’s”. A sad indictment indeed.
Literacy is more than learning to read or simply functioning in this world we inhabit – it is the key to learning, growing, opportunity, understanding, tolerance and compassion, to a world of wonder, innovation, technology and many other things that enrich our lives as a person and a society. It is the key to the future.
Elizabeth Elliott, St Marys.