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#1014779 - Tue Oct 08 2013 09:21 PM Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US
bloomsby Offline
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Registered: Sun Apr 29 2001
Posts: 3565
Loc: Norwich England UK            
According to this report standards of literacy and numeracy in the 16-24 age-group in England (without other parts of the UK) are about on a par with the standards among the 55-65 age-group. In the U.S. the situation is even more discouraging, with standards in the latter group higher - which would indicate a decline.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24433320?postid=117569866#comment_117569866

Any thoughts about this?


Edited by bloomsby (Tue Oct 08 2013 09:21 PM)

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#1014820 - Wed Oct 09 2013 01:50 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
ren33 Offline
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Registered: Thu Sep 30 1999
Posts: 11121
Loc: Fanling
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Teachers are too quick to blame parents, parents are too quick to blame teachers. Not enough time and effort is put into the triangle of responsibility for the encouragement and support of learning, namely the triangle of parent, student and teacher. If there were more collaboration, more interest and more effort, then success would follow. As soon as a child is failing to understand something, those three people have to meet and discuss the problem, and not stop until it is solved. Personal intervention is key, parents need to be there, teachers need to be there and students will see that there is value in trying harder. Show a personal interest and your child will see that if the most important people in his life find him of value, then he can learn.
Expectations have declined . It is a lot to do with electronics; that the computer can perform these functions and no one needs to learn them. Half of my students have the most appalling handwriting and spelling and find it funny that I insist on them improving both, by doing corrections, by spelling and vocab tests. Lets hope that by the end of this year matters will have improved and their examiners will be able to decipher their exam answers in order to give them a pass or two.
Don't get me started!!
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#1014863 - Wed Oct 09 2013 10:39 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
bloomsby Offline
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Registered: Sun Apr 29 2001
Posts: 3565
Loc: Norwich England UK            
I fully agree with you about the need for taking a personal interest and for early and effective intervention.

As for the unwanted side-effects of computers, calculators and other technological changes, presumably all the other countries listed are feeling this, too. So why is the situation particularly bad in England and the U.S.? That is depressing and something that I can't really explain.

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#1014937 - Wed Oct 09 2013 11:58 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
Lones78 Offline
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Registered: Mon Apr 27 2009
Posts: 1399
Loc: Forrestfield Western Australia
I find it frustrating explaining to my 11 year old son why he needs to learn dictionary skills - his teacher sends home some of this work each night for the class to complete. "Why do I need to know how to use a dictionary or atlas when I can just look it up on Google?" Hopefully he gets the hang of it soon - school isn't going ot get any easier for him if he doesn't know how to use reference books.
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#1014944 - Thu Oct 10 2013 02:22 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
bubbatom1 Offline
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Registered: Wed Jan 27 2010
Posts: 133
Loc: Rockhampton QLD Australia    
As a high school English teacher, we get many students who have profound literacy problems. To me, early and active intervention is the only way to help them. Unfortunately, teachers don't always have the time because of all the non-teaching requirements of our job. In Queensland, because our job consists of so many non-teaching, non face-to-face tasks, our students are suffering. It's not that we don't want to help, we just don't have the time. Also, when in the classroom, we can't work one-on-one with a student during an entire lesson because we have another 26 students we also need to work with.

This is where it comes down to parents, because they are chiefly responsible for a child's literacy development. Shoot me down in a hail of bullets by all means, but I'm pretty sure that you people who have posted on this thread have taken the time to educate their child, read to their child, been there for their child, loved their child and looked to their future. Unfortunately, most of our students who have literacy problems have parents who don't give a stuff.

When I have parent/teacher interviews, the parents you don't need to see show up. The parents you want to see there couldn't be bothered.

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#1014978 - Thu Oct 10 2013 05:58 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
ren33 Offline
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Registered: Thu Sep 30 1999
Posts: 11121
Loc: Fanling
  Hong Kong      
This is so true, and especially here where, it is the teacher's job to teach my child, if not I will pay a tutor extra to teach her. It never occurs that parents play that vital part too.
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#1015010 - Thu Oct 10 2013 06:51 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
sisterseagull Offline
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Registered: Tue Aug 16 2011
Posts: 188
Loc: Torquay Devon England UK      
Like Bubbatom, I too have an opinion on this, and like Bubbatom, you can shoot me down in flames if you disagree with me. Our problems are not just confined to literacy and numeracy, but pervades every aspect of our lives.

Since the industrial revolution we, in the western nations have needed teachers, engineers, scientists and the like. Many western nations have, in the last three or four decades, moved away from manufacturing and have become more 'service sector' orientated. Lets face it, you don't need a good degree to flip burgers, serve coffee or change a guests bedsheets. We have simply lost our incentive.

We think that the world owes us something. It doesn't. We've taken our wealth for granted have taken our eyes off the ball and our role has been taken over by those nations that are struggling to pull themselves out of poverty. Their youngsters have an incentive to better themselves. That is why we are now seeing so many more doctors, nurses, teachers etc of ethnic backgrounds that are not our own... and good luck to them all!

Many of our youngsters look around and see wanabees, talentless nobodies and over-hyped sports 'personalities' becoming multi-millionaires by just appearing, for a very limited time on national and international television. They then think, "Well, if that cretin can do it, then so can I; why should I put in any effort at school when I can become famous and wealthy by appearing on tv?"... It's Andy Warhol's prophecy coming true. Just look at some of the fools that have appeared on 'Big Brother', 'Britain's Got Talent', 'American Idol' etc.

Just my opinion; it may be simplistic but that's how I see it.

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#1015538 - Sat Oct 12 2013 05:21 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
agony Offline

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Posts: 11444
Loc: Western Canada
Some of these skills may indeed no longer be needed, though.

When my parents were young, essential life skills included such things as being able to iron shirts and dresses with a sad iron, saddle a horse, pluck a chicken or skin a rabbit.... We now longer teach engineers to use a slide rule - not because the concepts are not needed, but because there's a better way now to make those calculations.

I agree that it's important to keep up literacy and numeracy skills, but it's less clear which are actually essential skills, and which are as useful to a modern child as learning how to trim the wick of a kerosene lantern.

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#1015576 - Sat Oct 12 2013 11:14 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
ren33 Offline
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Registered: Thu Sep 30 1999
Posts: 11121
Loc: Fanling
  Hong Kong      
But the skills of writing and reading and numeracy ARE still needed. Until the exams that they sit, GCSE, AS etc are no longer taken sitting at a desk and writing for 2 hours at a time, our children do need those skills.Nearly all of my students are aiming to enter University, and need to be numerate and literate to do so.
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#1015626 - Sun Oct 13 2013 09:23 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: ren33]
bloomsby Offline
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Registered: Sun Apr 29 2001
Posts: 3565
Loc: Norwich England UK            
I agree with ren. Literacy and numeracy have, if anything, become more important than ever for all children.

1. Even if kids use computers much of the time, they need to be able to read, and they also need to be able to write - if only on social sites and when texting, etc.

2. The proportion of jobs that require 'brawn' rather than 'brain' continues to decline rapidly, and pretty much across the board, including such areas as agriculture.

3. Most importantly, as ren says in slightly different terms, literacy and numeracy are absolutely central to success in the school system. What's more, if children don't learn these skills fairly early - by age 7 or so at an appropriate level - they find that they cannot function at school. If that continues, they switch off or become disruptive or even start playing truant. From their point of view this has an undeniable logic, as school has little to offer illiterate and innumerate kids beyond a certain age.

4. Making predictions to the effect that in future people may have little use for literacy and numeracy is risky, to say the least, and is not really appropriate to fundamental skills. It's not like trying to decide whether kids training to do upmarket, hand laundering still need to be trained to iron silk shirts.

Many years ago, an elderly skilled craftsman told me that for his work and everyday life he needed to be numerate and to be able to read, but that he hardly ever needed to write (except for letters written to formula, such as reminders to pay bills). His son, who left school at 15, and also began his working life as an apprentice and later became a highly skilled craftsman, later went on to write a very successful Ph. D. thesis in engineering ... It's a good thing that he didn't assume he'd almost never need to write.



Edited by bloomsby (Sun Oct 13 2013 09:25 AM)

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#1015669 - Sun Oct 13 2013 05:35 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
MotherGoose Offline
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Registered: Mon Apr 22 2002
Posts: 4228
Loc: Western Australia
Quote:
When I have parent/teacher interviews, the parents you don't need to see show up. The parents you want to see there couldn't be bothered.


Ain't that the truth!

-----

I agree with ren too about numeracy and literacy skills being so important. You still need those skills to function in every day life, even if you rely heavily on technology and electronic devices.

Unfortunately, what I am seeing is a generation of parents who do not know how to teach, or even interact well with their children. Admittedly I am seeing a biased population as I work in an area of paediatrics which specialises in children with behavioural and learning difficulties. However, the vast majority of parents who bring their children into our consulting rooms will walk in, sit down, grab a magazine and proceed to ignore their children for the rest of their waiting time. It is a rare parent who will take the time to read them a story, or at the very least, keep an eye on them to make sure they aren't indulging in negative behaviours, such as standing on the chairs, ripping down our office signs and setting off the fire alarm.

Once they get in the consulting room to see the paediatrician, these parents will be enquiring about ways and means of getting a teacher's aide for their child, or extra time in timed examinations, or a tutor, etc...because their child is not doing well in school.

Very few of them read to, or with, their children, which we encourage. Too many parents expect the school to do their job for them.

The education system also places heavy demands upon children. Most of the kids we see suffer from co-morbid anxiety. There are many causes for anxiety but most of them suffer from school-related anxiety - generally related to school performance issues and/or, to a lesser extent, bullying issues. In Western Australia, high school goes for five years from year 8 to year 12 (although this will change very soon). When my daughter entered year 8 at the age of 12, she was immediately "harassed" to choose her career path. Within a couple of weeks of commencing high school in year 8, she failed her first test and we were told that if she didn't improve she couldn't do this subject for years 11 and 12. I told the school they were being "a bit bloody premature" on the basis of a single test administered three years prior. (I think the school marked my card as a troublesome parent from that point on - LOL).

Teachers also have their hands tied by the educational system. When I taught high school Science, I was summoned to the principal's office one day and hauled over the coals for daring to correct a child's homework. I had corrected numerous spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. I was told I was a Science teacher not an English teacher, and advised that, at the most, I should only correct about 5 or 6 errors and let the rest go, otherwise I would discourage the child.

Never mind that the child would probably take his homework home and his parents would see all the "undetected" errors. Can't you just hear that parent saying "No wonder little Johnny isn't doing well in school. His teacher isn't much better. Look at all the spelling errors she missed"?

I argued the toss with the principal and we compromised. I was allowed to correct all the incorrectly spelled Science terms.

Forgive my naivete but I really thought literacy and numeracy were "across the board" skills, not confined to the province of the English and Maths departments.

I could say more, a lot more, but it's time to go to work! Have a great day everyone!
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#1015687 - Sun Oct 13 2013 09:03 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
agony Offline

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Loc: Western Canada
I'm not saying that literacy will become outdated, but that certain aspects of how we express our literacy, if I may put it that way, will be. It's essential, for example, to be able to look up the correct spelling and definition of a word, but is it essential to do so in a paper and ink dictionary?

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#1015695 - Sun Oct 13 2013 10:53 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
mehaul Offline
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Registered: Wed Feb 03 2010
Posts: 4969
Loc: Florida USA
An example of why kids are turned off on literacy: why isn't Scissors spelled Sxixxors? Isn't X the very idea of them?
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#1015845 - Mon Oct 14 2013 10:50 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: agony]
Lones78 Offline
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Registered: Mon Apr 27 2009
Posts: 1399
Loc: Forrestfield Western Australia
Originally Posted By: agony
I'm not saying that literacy will become outdated, but that certain aspects of how we express our literacy, if I may put it that way, will be. It's essential, for example, to be able to look up the correct spelling and definition of a word, but is it essential to do so in a paper and ink dictionary?


When my son is 11 and doesn't have his own computer or internet access (on hand at every minute of the day) and he needs to know what a word means (or check how to spell it) - then yes, he should be able to use a paper and ink dictionary.

I file 'stuff' day in, day out at my job - I need to know how to put things in alphabetical order. Dictionary literacy (if there is such a thing) helps to teach how to put things in order alphabetically, as well as give us correct spellings and definitions of words. It's the skill of finding information in amongst other, similar, information that is the 'bonus' skill here (in my opinion).
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#1015851 - Tue Oct 15 2013 12:30 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
ren33 Offline
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Registered: Thu Sep 30 1999
Posts: 11121
Loc: Fanling
  Hong Kong      
Deep breath.
Is it only me who derives the most enjoyment of anything else (yes, anything!) from reading a real book? I feel it my duty to offer that feeling to a child. As I have said, Numeracy and Literacy skills are vital for the advancement of the career of most people. Enjoyment of a book , equally important , in my view.
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#1015922 - Tue Oct 15 2013 09:17 AM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: bloomsby]
agony Offline

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Posts: 11444
Loc: Western Canada
Honestly, I think we are shooting ourselves in the foot (feet?) if we insist that literacy only "counts" if done the way it was done in the good old days. If young people equate a love of reading, of words, an understanding of how numbers and language work and an appreciation of their beauty - if all of that is associated with a scoldy "and not on your phone - you must hold a dead tree in your hands" attitude, we're doomed.

I understand that that's not really what many of you are saying - you have a love for books, as do I, and hate to see that love disappear from the world. But in the end it is the words, the concepts, the ideas, in the books, and not the physical objects themselves that matter, and we must not lose sight of that.

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#1015967 - Tue Oct 15 2013 05:15 PM Re: Literacy and Numeracy in England and the US [Re: agony]
MotherGoose Offline
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Registered: Mon Apr 22 2002
Posts: 4228
Loc: Western Australia
Agony, I do appreciate your point, but I belong to the "what happens when your device dies" school of thought. There's no substitute for brain power.

The advent of the typewriter, for example, did not spell (no pun intended) the end of handwriting. There are many instances when it is quicker and easier to rely on one's hands and brains than to boot up a computer or other electronic device to do the job.

Bloomsby hit the nail on the head when he said "The proportion of jobs that require 'brawn' rather than 'brain' continues to decline rapidly" - which makes literacy and numeracy skills, without dependency on devices, more important than ever. Yet it has been predicted that, in Australia, there has been a serious decline in standards:

This country is facing a serious literacy problem. We could very easily by about 2020 have a country where 55 percent of the population is illiterate. (Bryce Courtney, Sun-Herald 23 August 1998.)

I see this everyday on my Facebook page which I use to keep up with dear friends and family members. I can't understand half of what my younger relatives are posting due to gross errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, not to mention slang and syntax. If the purpose of language and literacy is to communicate, they've failed miserably.

I don't have a problem with utilising newer or alternative methods used to teach literacy and numeracy skills but I do believe the "old ways" are fundamentally better than techniques which involve reliance on devices.


Edited by MotherGoose (Tue Oct 15 2013 05:26 PM)
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