Tuesday, December 08, 2020

CIS’s phonics victory

Sinking scores, poor sentence construction, misspelling words. In recent years, the process of teaching school children to read and write has been such a disaster across the nation there was bound to be a correction. It has finally arrived, and I am pleased to say CIS has helped lead the way.

In a groundbreaking article in CIS’s Policy magazine in 2013, Jennifer Buckingham – a long-time education director at CIS, now a board member – along with professor Kevin Wheldall and Dr. Robyn Wheldall wrote a frank analysis of the problem and came to the conclusion that ideology was trumping evidence in government and university departments of education.

This article was followed by an event, “Why Jaydon Can’t Read: A Forum on Fixing Literacy” at which Jennifer Buckingham, Justine Ferrari and Tom Alegounarias exposed a worrisome fad in education. Schools had replaced time-honoured and proven methods of teaching reading with the “look-say” method or what has become known as a “whole language.” These new techniques, they argued, had no scientific basis and did not help children learn to read.

The result was that for several years Jennifer and the CIS education team, via research, media outlets and events, stressed the crucial role of phonics – the ability to recognise the relationships between letters and sounds – in learning to read.

As a consequence, we have achieved policy success. Last week NSW became the second state after South Australia to introduce compulsory phonics screening for Year 1 students. It follows the success of phonics in the Festival State. Whereas in 2018, just 43 per cent of Year 1 students met the expected achievement level in SA, this year 63 per cent of SA state school students demonstrated phonics skills at the benchmark level or higher.

No wonder the NSW education minister, Sarah Mitchell, has declared that the battle between reading by phonics and the whole language method is over and that phonics has won. For more, watch our 2018 CIS phonics debate in Sydney in front of nearly 500 delegates.

As the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the Australian Financial Review have editorialised, phonics is the best way to detect quickly children who are failing at the first hurdle in school.

Another victory for common-sense education policy is the NSW government’s recent announcement to back the Teach for Australia program – joining Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, and Northern Territory. This is just the kind of initiative needed to bring flexible entry points to teaching and provide meaningful on-the-job training. As our education research fellow, Glenn Fahey penned at the Australian Financial Review in September, a higher quality teaching workforce is best achieved by boosting supply and competition – not restricting it by blocking new entrants and imposing rigid regulations.

Meanwhile, CIS continues to challenge education orthodoxies. In a recent paper that has attracted widespread media attention, Glenn, makes the case for reform of Australian school funding. More money has achieved declining student results, he argues, so it’s time to lift our educational performance by targeting teaching quality instead. Writing in the Australian Financial Review, Glenn argues that to properly marry resourcing with higher quality, we must bring the school workforce out of the dark ages and embrace – rather than eschew – market-based approaches.

Email from: Tom Switzer CIS cis@cis.org.au


Also see my other blogs.  Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com (TONGUE TIED)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)


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