Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Teaching children to read

is surely important? Teaching them basic number skills would also seem to be important.
But it seems I am wrong. Someone has just had a shot at me and said those things don't matter. I've just been told it is more important for a child to be able to code. 
"There's a calculator on phones," I was told.
Hang on a moment. Don't you need to be able to read the screen on the phone? Don't you need to be able to push the right buttons? Don't you need to understand the concept of "add" or "take" or "multiply" or "divide"?
There was a report under the previous Downunder government which, like most such reports, suggested there was a need to spend more money on education. Like most such reports it also suggested that it needed to be spent in "poor" schools. It was suggested that these schools needed resources in the form of such things as computers, smaller class sizes etc. There were the usual suggestions that lack of resources was causing children to fail, holding them back, not giving them the skills, and failing to get them into university.
It is the sort of thing people want to hear. It's the easy "answer"  - except that it isn't the answer at all.
I know of schools in other parts of the world with almost no resources and class sizes of fifty or more which have sent students to university. Was it easy? Of course not. Would they like more resources? Of course they would.
When Jen Campbell set out to raise funds for "The Book Bus" she was doing much more than raising money. She was raising awareness, awareness of the importance of being able to read. Books are precious to many children in Zambia. To own just one book is to be rich. To be able to read that book is an achievement in which they take pride. 
Yes, like anywhere else, there are children there who don't want to learn in school. They will leave and do more practical things. For the children who do want to learn however learning to read is a gift of great importance. Most of them will use it as much as they can.
They will use the resources that they have as much as they can.
It makes me wonder whether the "problem" here is not a lack of resources but one of too many resources. Perhaps we need less, not more. Perhaps we need to use what we actually have instead of believing that we don't have enough. 
And we need teachers who have the skills to encourage children to believe they have enough "things" and that what they really want to do is learn more instead.

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