The Brisbane "Sunday Mail" has just done a big feature on the sad state of Queensland education. Three of their articles are given below -- starting with their Summary. Sadly, what is bad in Queensland is at least as bad in most of the rest of the English-speaking world
"The State Government has launched an urgent overhaul of child literacy as a former education boss accuses Queensland schools of failing students. Education Minister Rod Welford told The Sunday Mail the reforms would target reading, writing and spelling skills amid widespread public concern about falling standards. The announcement came as Colin Lamont, former state chairman of the Australian Council for Education Standards, warned our children had been "dumbed down" and today's students would be no match for their counterparts of 50 years ago.
The shocking appraisal was backed by the dismal results of a basic spelling test set by The Sunday Mail for a Brisbane Year 7 class. Almost two-thirds of the 11 and 12-year-olds failed, with some unable to spell any of the words. Mr Lamont, a former Liberal MP, blamed the state's education bureaucrats for an "appalling" lack of child literacy and numeracy skills - not teachers, whom he says are overburdened with administrative work and are given limited in-service training. "Thirteen and 14-year-olds today do not understand basic literacy and numeracy," Mr Lamont told The Sunday Mail. "They learn about fundamental, day-to-day stuff - like how to send a text message - because it is supposed to be relevant."
Mr Welford acknowledged growing public concern over a decline in standards. "I am aware that there is a lot of interest in the community, especially from parents, with literacy and numeracy," he said. "That is why this year literacy is going to be one of the key areas we focus on." Mr Welford said the literacy overhaul would involve the release of an information guide to schools this week. It would include a "framework" on how to change the curriculum to deal with the teaching and learning of literacy from pre-school to Year 10. Mr Welford had also commissioned the Queensland Studies Authority to do a general review of the curriculum up to Year 10. "We will look at what are the essential things that young people must learn to be competent by Year 10," he said. "Literacy will be one of the top priorities."
However, Mr Welford urged caution when comparing the scholastic ability of children today with those in the past. "Children in the 1950s could do some things better than some children do now and there are children doing things today that kids 30 years ago would not have had a clue about - such as Powerpoint presentations and designing things on computers," he said. "The skills we need to focus on today are different from the past, but that does not mean literacy." Mr Welford said it was crucial that youngsters were better prepared for life after school. "Children are getting a very good education in our schools, one that is more relevant to the 21st century. However, that doesn't mean that literacy and numeracy skills should be neglected," he said. The State Government last year announced a $127 million reform package aimed at delivering better education and higher skills".
NOTE: You can find here the English exam taken in 1955 by Queensland schoolchildren at the end of Primary school. Most High School graduates would have difficulty with it today.
More on the betrayal of Queensland children by the education bureaucracy
"A former education boss has delivered a damning assessment of Queensland's schools, accusing bureaucrats of failing our children. Colin Lamont, a former Liberal state MP and Queensland chairman of the Australian Council for Education Standards, warned children were being "dumbed down". Mr Lamont, who teaches at Griffith University, said he was appalled at the lack of literacy and numeracy skills. Spelling and grammar had been "sacrificed on the altar of relevance" and primary school students in 2006 were no match for their counterparts of 1955. "Thirteen and 14-year-olds today do not understand basic literacy and numeracy," said Mr Lamont, who also taught English and history at secondary school. "They do not have a reference to our rich, cultural heritage. They learn about fundamental, day-to-day stuff - like how to send a text message - because it is supposed to be relevant."
He blames the bureaucrats, not the teachers, who are overburdened with administrative work and have change thrust upon them almost invariably without relevant in-service training. In a stark example of how education standards had diminished, Mr Lamont said 50-year-old scholarship papers (which all primary school children had to pass before gaining free secondary education) would be too difficult for children today. "The degree of difficulty in the maths paper is such that I doubt many of today's teachers would pass it. But we were 13 at the time and found little or no difficulty with the content," he said.
"The English paper was equally beyond today's teacher, but of course no one is taught grammar any more, so there is a distinct disadvantage. "Nothing in it was irrelevant to a good, sound preparation to turn out articulate and literate graduates, to a level unknown today. "Even the social studies paper reveals a wide general knowledge of the world which is non-existent today - in a classroom that deals with suburban history and geography in the name of 'relevance'."
The two-hour, eight-question English and social studies exams were sat on the same day. The mathematics paper - done without the aid of a calculator - came the following morning. The Sunday Mail has provided two questions from each exam (with pounds, shillings and pence adjusted to dollars, and miles to kilometres) for our readers' interest.
Education commentator Christopher Bantick said that 50 years ago children straight out of Year 8 - then the last year of primary school - were employable at that young age because they knew how to read, write and add-up. "Kids today don't know enough about the structure of words to spell," Mr Bantick said. He said a Federal Government report last year revealed students could not pass primary school tests from 50 years ago. "The curriculum of 50 years ago was a lot narrower. A lot of time was dedicated to spelling, grammar and arithmetic. "The performance level today across a range of subjects might be better . . . but the great black hole is that they don't know their own country, they don't have a sense of their own place and what makes it up geographically or economically."
State Opposition education spokesman Stuart Copeland said there were "real concerns" in the community about the standards of education. "A lot of the basics are being neglected . . . they are out of vogue, not as trendy," he said. He said parents told him students were not being taught simple numeracy and literacy. "It is affecting us as a nation and our viability on the international stage. We have got to make sure our children are well educated."
Results of the Queensland spelling survey
"Tech-savvy Queensland children are struggling to spell even common words. While many six-year-olds know how to write mobile-phone text, children are failing basic classroom spelling and grammar. The results of a spelling test given this week to pupils aged 11 and 12 will shock parents. The Sunday Mail gave the test, compiled by a former teacher and education expert, to a typical class of students. They were words the expert considered that a "typical" child of that age should be able to spell.
More than 7 per cent of students could not spell a single word from the list of 23. More than 65 per cent misspelled half of the words or more. Almost 8 per cent of the students got just three words right. Less than 12 per cent got 20 or more right. One student aged 11 was able to spell every word in the test except one. The results fuel fears the growth of text messaging is affecting children's spelling and grammar.
Education expert Christopher Bantick said he was not surprised by the results and said the situation was "shameful". He said people a generation ago could "spell infinitely better" and there was a whole generation who had not been taught spelling and grammar. "Imagine if we did not have spell-checkers," Mr Bantick said. "These are common words which are used in the media, in conversation, in advertising and in society. "Kids will learn to spell if they are taught properly . . . and teachers have to carry part of the weight. "You have 22-year-olds and 24-year-old who are teaching kids . . . and they have never been taught themselves. "We are making kids dumber and we are making them dumber because we are not giving them what they need." Mr Bantick said texting was changing the way society used language. "My concern is that kids will start to spell as they text and text will become the new speech."
Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said the test results were not representative of the student population. He said Australian students rated very highly internationally for literacy. "We shouldn't condemn a whole cohort of students based on a narrow test," Mr Ryan said. "Yes, the issue of spelling is a concern and has to be addressed but in general we'd expect the results would be better than that. "Schools are doing the best they can with the resources being given the them." [So how come the schools of yesteryear with far fewer resources did so much better?]
The children were asked to spell article, disappoint, government, height, knowledge, privilege, permanent, announcement, trousers, mountainous, improvement, elastic, obstinately, referee, chimney, thieves, principal, principle, stationary, stationery, separate, orchardist and civil".
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