Thursday, October 01, 2015

3 Rs

This is an interesting table, although nearly ten years old now. It disturbs me that literacy in Tasmania is significantly lower than on the mainland. I would have thought the opposite, with the state perhaps having smaller schools and more individual attention for students. I have noted this matter before and I'd be interested in opinions. I have seen other more recent statistics painting a far bleaker picture of Tasmania's literacy problem.

I am a little surprised that states with high indigenous populations aren't so different to those states that don't, but numbers of indigenous people may not be large enough to tell the true story.

Level one is the lowest score, say people who can't even read the dose information a a bottle of medicine. Level 3 is what is needed to fully function in society. I would put most of us who have blogs at level 4. Level 5? Can you process in your mind a legal document as you read it?

Document Literacy Scale, By State, Territory and Australia - 2006

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4/5
State or Territory
%
%
%
%

New South Wales
18.9
27.6
35.1
18.3
Victoria
19.5
29.7
34.3
16.6
Queensland
16.2
30.4
36.6
16.8
South Australia
17.5
28.4
35.2
18.9
Western Australia
15.1
29.0
36.9
18.9
Tasmania
21.4
29.3
34.1
15.2
Northern Territory
18.8
27.7
38.6
15.0
Australian Capital Territory
11.5
20.4
42.2
25.8
Australia
18.0
28.8
35.5
17.7


Although I don't know literacy rates for other countries, a figure of nearly 20% with very low literacy is disturbing.  Let's blame teachers, that is the people at the coal face and not management and policy makers.

I've just looked at some Wikepedia statistics for world literacy and the test is quite rudimentary, judged by results of say Australia at 96% and Antigua at 99%, but Germany gets 99%, Austria 98%, Norway 100%, Netherlands 99%. Let us go to the U countries, United Kingdom and the United States. Impressively and surprising to me, both 99%. Thou shall not judge a country by its text speak.

My conclusion, Australia performs very poorly in world literacy stakes and it is simply not good enough.






































































28 comments:

  1. We have something like 30% indigenous students in our school and then many other students where English is their second or third language. In our school we have used funding to deliver intensive programs for students not meeting national minimum standards. Look at NAPLAN statistics for more up to date figures. By the time I see students in high school they have already had 9 years of schooling and still some have literacy issues which usually present themselves as behavioural issues and refusal to work. I think this is a much more complex issue than just blaming teachers. I would suggest regional/remote areas like Tasmania and Cairns do not get the same funding as our capital cities and certainly their teachers do not have the same access to professional development as their counterparts in the cities. But thank you for opening the discussion Andrew. A valuable one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol, I hope you didn't think I was having a crack at teachers. The blame firmly lies in policy and with administration, along with governments, both federal and state. After nine years of schooling, it is far too late than do anything but remediate. Show me the child at seven, and I will show you the adult, and this is so often true. I am not aware of funding levels, but surely literacy costs little more than a teacher's wage. My grandparents both never had books read to them and minimal schooling, about six years, but both were spelling, writing style and grammar perfect. Clearly it was a high focus for schools back then and should be now, above almost all other considerations. In this world nothing creates the haves and have nots more than literacy.

      Delete
  2. as a teacher the situation is more complited ans sometimes it is very difficult to find the right solution

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosia, I just checked your country and you are doing well with a score of 99.7%.

      Delete
  3. The ACT outcome doesn't surprise me but the NT figure does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Victor, yes I did particularly notice the ACT figure.

      Delete
  4. I just give legal documents to the daughter as she has a legal degree not me.
    Merle...........

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merle, how very useful and cost saving.

      Delete
  5. Those figures would be similar today.
    Tasmania doesn't get the same funding as many other States & Territories unfortunately. Larger States with larger cities probably win out in that.
    When two of the grandchildren moved from the sunshine coast to here, they were ahead in their learning which caused a bit of boredom at school. One would think classes would be uniform throughout Australia..
    Yes i can usually make sense of legal documents...they of course have their own language as do other professions..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret, interesting about your grandchildren and their move. Weren't we supposed to have a national curriculum and one would assume, similar standards state by state? Boredom by school children who are ahead of their class is a real problem, but moving them up a level to be with kids a year older than them can be a problem too.

      Delete
    2. They did more the eldest child up a grade...that proved to be good, the younger one had to sit it out till the class caught up to her.
      I do believe that all is supposed to be the same Australia wide, obviously it's not as I'm only talking about last year when they moved to Tasmania..

      Delete
  6. Andrew, Carol indirectly picks up one reason for literacy scores being low which is, if literacy scores are determined by literacy in English, then a lack of English will be a factor.

    For example, D, whose first language is Shanghainese, second language ("Mandarin") Chinese, confused anti-inflammatory and anti-piretic when home dosing our cat when it was unwell. (The creature survived to die of other causes.)

    In my work as a lawyer I quite often encounter people who are illiterate in English and sometimes, because they came here as children or from backward regions of their own country or because of lack of practice, also illiterate in their own language.

    Leaving aside the NESB issue (most adult literacy classes in TAFE, which are funded, are really filled by people who need tuition in English, which is very poorly funded), I doubt that you can expect quick changes in literacy levels because as you say the die is cast for most people's literacy (especially those with low scores) quite early in their life. So even if schools lift their game, that would take a long time to flow through the population as a whole.

    The main area where you could hope for improved performance by the education system would be picking up kids who are falling through the gaps in the system before they leave school. As you yourself hint and common experience suggests, many kids fall at a very early hurdle. To detect stragglers and bring them into the mainstream is a very resource-intensive activity, especially because kids who are not doing well at school often pose other "behavioural" challenges and also quite often have their own defensive strategies against being singled out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This last paragraph suggests a return to the Friday morning tests of my primary school years would be a great idea. Each Friday we were tested in spelling, dictation, comprehension and basic math, on the work we had done throughout the week. Afternoons were "easy" lessons, (art or writing essays) while the teacher graded the tests. In this way, he or she was able to see which students were falling behind and the curriculum for the next week was designed to help these students catch up.

      Delete
    2. Marcellous, that is a point I thought about and who knows what the criteria was. But if someone wants to function in Australia well, they need to speak English. Hmm, anti-piretic would send me to the dictionary. As you say, many older people never had great opportunities to learn English when they arrived as immigrants and they are perhaps the worst off towards the ends of their lives. Some are very dependant on children to deal with all sorts of things.

      I really think that money spent at a young age, and this goes for early intervention with autistic children too, can have long term financial and social benefit to society as a whole as well as to the individual and those who love them.

      Delete
    3. River, I really can't remember if we were regularly tested or at random. My primary school and class were very small so I expect any falling behind would have been quickly picked up the teachers. There were a couple of socially disadvantaged brothers who struggled a bit but I would put them in level 2 of the table. No one had behavioural issues in primary school. It simply wasn't allowed.

      Delete
    4. We have Friday quizzes too in grade school, River. On math, social studies, which was mainly US history and civics, English, spelling and grammar.

      Delete
    5. Strayer, it maybe just from tv, films and the media but US schools seem to turn out very eloquent speakers in general.

      Delete
    6. Second thoughts, Andrew: I reckon teachers mostly know who is falling behind but they don't have the time/training/backup to identify why or to do very much about it when it starts (and remember some of it starts because of things outside school). As time goes on it is often compounded with behaviour and sometimes truancy issues - that's when it probably gets harder to notice and often the child won't be interested in addressing it - just hoping/waiting to get out of the system and be left alone.

      However I note that the ABS suggests that quite a lot of the interstate variation (and possibly therefore international variation - in 2006 we lined up most closely with Canada) is to do with the make-up of the population - older people and NESB immigrants have lower scores on average though not so much for more recent immigrants as for earlier immigrants; less educated people, people working in less reading-focussed occupations and people not working at all tend to have lower scores.

      So Tasmania's figures, for example, may say more about the adult population of Tasmania than about Tasmania's education system per se.

      Very remote areas were not sampled. In particular this meant that about 20% of the NT population was left out. That doesn't make much difference to the national figures but probably does to the Northern Territory ones.

      Delete
  7. "Level 3 is what is needed to fully function in society", so that means only 35.5% of Australians are fully functioning people? And only 17.7% are smarter than that?
    This is very sad news. Does this have anything to do with the dumbing down of our education system? The fact that all kids now get awards etc just for showing up (at sports) or just for trying (in class). No one has to actually earn their gold star?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. River, that makes 53% who are fully literate. I expect the second level gets by pretty well but it is the bottom 18% to be very concerned about. My view is, with mainly anecdotal sources, that there has been too much crowded into the curriculum leaving insufficient time for the basics. Going back a bit further, I think the process of students learning whole words rather than sounds within words first caused a lot of trouble with education. I think they have now reverted to sounds. But I am a bit out of my league here.

      Delete
    2. Yes, too much in the curriculum, but what would you cut out? Students in other countries have broad curriculums and they seem to manage.

      Delete
    3. River, I really don't know. How about starting with the most important, literacy and work through the essentials and literacy is mainly gained in primary school where the curriculum is less crowded.

      Delete
  8. Sad, and bad. And yes, I can (mostly) understand legal documents. If I am forced to deal with them personally I do read them several times though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EC, aren't we blessed to have a good if not simple education. (making some assumptions there that you did not go to a posh private school) With only the greatest of concentration can I read legalese, but when I do, I do pick up salient sentences. Of course no one reads internet disclaimers or 'terms of use'.

      Delete
    2. You are right. No poshness, no private school. Some very good teachers though. Unsung heroes.

      Delete
    3. I tend to skim legal documents picking out what I can understand and then relating the surrounding sentences to that. it seems to work.

      Delete
  9. I think parents have a responsibility also Andrew , although I do realise not all parents have the time these days to re-enforce what's taught at school.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grace, parents do indeed and it can make such a difference, but strangely and perhaps not unusually back then, my grandparents did not receive help at home and they were both very literate.

      Delete