Education needs to get the basics right

Education needs to get the basics right

At the launch of the Labor Party Education policy, much was made of the "radical" overhaul of pre-schools, by allowing three-year-olds to attend and also by extending their hours of operation.

A sound bite on the ABC 7pm News Bulletin, about this proposal, linked its introduction with being a measure which could address the declining literacy and numeracy levels of students in South Australian schools.

Given that during the same period of this regular fall in standards, school starting ages have gone from six to five, kindergarten and pre-school education has been available for four-year-olds, it is hard to imagine how permitting a three-year-old to attend pre-school and increasing their hours of operation will play any part in arresting this decline.

To most classroom teachers, it is clearly evident that students need more time allocated to lessons conducted during the current hours of operation, which would allow them to develop and extend their literacy and numeracy skills.

The current curriculum is overcrowded, most classroom teachers agree, but their opinion is repeatedly ignored by those who wish to introduce further subjects/activities/perspectives to the learning of our students, thereby reducing the amount of time devoted to basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Confining learning to only school hours has also contributed to this fall in academic standards, as the number of students engaging in development of reading and math skills at home continues to fall dramatically and the extremely important role of parents in their child's learning is unfortunately in decline.

It should be blatantly obvious that the sole solution is not just extra funding and staffing, but in utilising more successful leaning strategies, increasing the time allocated to basic skills and jettisoning non essential curriculum requirements.

This annual consternation and dismay at our students' achievement or underachievement, and our falling position on literacy and numeracy test tables is hotly debated by educators, both theorists and pragmatists, who zealously put forward their preferred hypothesis and untried strategies for learning. The adage, 'if it's not broke, don't fix it' certainly applies to new learning strategies, which have superseded tried and trusted approaches to the retention and understanding of student knowledge and the development of skills.

New ways, such as the understanding of multiplication through modelling, grouping and arrays, rather than rote learning, were introduced, despite the high level of automaticity which rote learning had successfully provided for decades, resulting in students at year 8 who don't know their tables.

This also applied to the failed replacement of the highly successful phonic approach to reading by the dubious whole word strategy, which has resulted in a generation of poor and disinclined readers, but thankfully this decision has been reversed.

A student's future relies on a good education, the early years up until at least year 8 should have a strong focus on developing and using basic skills, which would then allow them to be applied to their learning in years 9 to 12 and beyond. A consistent and methodical approach is required, rather than student learning being an experiment, to check the veracity of a new fad or trend.

IAN MACGOWAN

Ceduna

No to Kimba travel

The statement by Jeff Baldock that "people will be travelling to and spending money in the Kimba which is great for the district" is a bit far-flung.

No way in hell would I be going to a town with radioactive waste. I hope the mayor realises that there will be many, many more people doing the same thing.

I have heard that some tourists will be deciding instead to take the long way around via Port Lincoln and Coast Road, this also by default, will impact Kyancutta and Wudinna.

ANN-MARIE BOSCO

Glynde

Save our Boston Bay

Disappointed to read only about 300 residents attended the rally against the desalination plant for our pristine waters, particularly when our population is 15,000 residents. Did you attend?

DOUG GLASS

Port Lincoln

Rally reporting

I would like to thank Jarrad Delaney for his great report in the Port Lincoln Times about the rally on Sunday, November 21.

It was so refreshing to see factual, accurate, interesting and unbiased reporting, particularly regarding this event. You are a REAL journalist, Jarrad - thanks again.

KYM TORR

Port Lincoln