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By ATWadmin On December 5th, 2006

Here’s the odd thing. We are constantly told what a wonderful job teachers are doing, and how their pay does not reflect the Herculean efforts they put into their jobs. Yet the inability of thousands of children to read when they leave primary school is a national disaster, the chief schools inspector has warned. 

About one in five 11-year-olds leaves primary school with poor literacy and Christine Gilbert, head of education watchdog Ofsted, said improving on that was a "major part" of raising standards at secondary level. (Interestingly enough, 1 in 5 adults in the UK are claimed to be illiterate, according to the UN!) 

I agree that 20% of children aged 11 not having even a basic command of the English language is shocking but it begs the question as to what is actually HAPPENING to them during all those years in Primary school "education" Have teaching standards become SO low, has in-class activities become SO wretched, that this monumental scale of failure can prevail? (Oops, mustn’t be judgemental, right?) 

5 Responses to “20% ILLITERATE”

  1. David,

    We have talked about this before.

    I like the analogy that someone brought up before over the 3-legged stool, i.e. the parents, the child and the teacher – cooperation and help of all 3 are needed for a successful outcome.

    It would be interesting to break down the figures to see if it is due to incompetent teaching, or as I suspect a combination of issues.

    I’m not saying there aren’t incompetents – I have come across some and it sucks that you can’t get rid of them. I have also come across a number of superb teachers in our local primary school.

  2. Joc,

    Yes, that’s a fair observation and I rather agree. I was very lucky to have my children well educated at an excellent Primary School, and I think most kids left it with a good grasp of the three "R"’s. But I feel so sorry for those who leave school essentially illiterate – their lives will be blighted.

  3. Hi David

    I went into a primary school last year for teaching practise to help out voluntarily. It is in one of Londons ‘poorest’ boroughs, i was fearing the worst. However i was knocked out by the standards there. The standard of teaching was amazing. I tried a few primary schools and it was pretty much the same. The kids were all lovely happy, veil free. Sadly when i looked out in the mornings to see who was delivering them to school at one school the entrance was awash with niqabs. But inside the kids were adorable, happy..free 😉

    I think part of the figures may have something to do with what age immigrant children enter the schools. I noticed at the ones I attended a lot of immigrant kids from Poland etc entered higher up the primary level and struggled. They were assigned the teaching assistant but essentially they just had to keep up.

    Of course though there will always be kids whose first language is english…that struggle.

  4. A huge amount depends on the head teacher. If they’re good the school will usually succeed, if they’re bad it will usually struggle. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to demote or fire the bad ones.

    Of course it goes without saying that schools where the parents take an interest will also do better on average than schools where the parents don’t give a toss.

  5. I don’t know if the same thing is happening there curriculum-wise as is happening over here. When comparing different school districts, one of the local ones shows outstanding results in reading testing for the elementary kids there. They stuck with phonics while many other districts toyed around with that ‘whole language’ crap. I think that’s what they call it. It is a miserable failure (whatever they are deciding to call it) but for some odd reason it is entrenched where it is being used and common sense is not prevailing.

    The same goes for math. Something called ‘Reform Math’ is being used. It, also, is a miserable failure. Mathematicians country wide have criticized the use of it. Again, it is entrenched and there is a lot of resistance to change.

    Thankfully, the math curriculum I use at home was named as one of the good ones. I have liked it and I have liked teaching it. The girls grouse a bit, having to learn their addition facts and multiplication tables, having to know how to do equations on paper and not just the calculator. Decimals and fractions, even! Boo hoo. Poor things.

    Another problem is the education of the teachers in the system. Typically the bottom 1/2 of the class choose to go into education. Teachers were not required to be certified in the subject that they taught. A remedy for this situation is being attempted – again meeting stiff resistance – but even if successful it will take a generation to really fix, no?

    We can’t just blame the parents. The educators love to do that, you know. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it’s a disgrace. The arrogance of the so-called ‘professionals’ and the refusal to hear the concerns of the parents of little Johnny and Janie and their inability to read at such a late age.