Chez Guevara FM - the home of UK Psy Trance

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Don't know their R's from their Elbow

Shocking report from the government that apparently 120,000 11-year olds cannot read or write properly and 140,000 are unable to do sums. 120,000 children equates to 1 in 5 and frankly, I'm shocked at that. How does a child manage to get through infant and junior school without being able to read or write?

I just don't get it. The 3 R's - which I've always thought were a misnomer in itself, I mean, no wonder kids are struggling if the experts call it reading, riting and rithmetic - should be a basic for every child. I can understand some may struggle with dyslexia, learning disabilities and a few others slipping through the net with bad teaching; but 20% of all kids?

The answers must surely lay with the teachers, parents and education chiefs. I would be horrified if my kids couldn't read or write. And as a teacher, I'd be ashamed if nearly a quarter of my class couldn't read or write. I don't profess to know all the answers, but I do know something has got to change.


Shit Sandwich said...

My views are quite Daily Mail-y on this one - I blame parents pretty much exclusively. Most of them see school as glorified childcare and many are setting their children appalling examples of greed, laziness and thuggish behaviour at home. If a child acts up at school and the parents are called, it'll more likely end up in a lawsuit against the school and a broken nose for the teacher than in any punishment for the kid.

If a school can't maintain adequate discipline, how can adequate education take place?

Anonymous said...

Re-read this report and take a note of the positives four out of five children have reached a satisfactory standard which if you know a little Johnny or Susan of that age you would probably be parading them as wonderful examples of there generation. To say that all those who failed to reach this bench mark cannot read or write is absurd. Imagine if they all reached this standard, what would that say about the results? I guess it's a little like the so called dumbing down of A level and degree courses. I for one feel spelling and grammar are overated which I'm sure you will not read as dos'nt matter. There's an example I'm not really sure that "dos'nt" is right or wrong but I'm sure as hell not going to check it. Well OK I will, but only for next time.

Anonymous said...

Uhm 20% is actually a fifth not a quarter guess your not a teacher then?

Chez Guevara said...

Erm, I know. That's why I said *nearly* a quarter. Because a fifth is nearly a quarter.

And I'm afraid that the ability to spell and use grammar correctly is important in the real world. As an employer, I will not hire people that have spelling mistakes on their CV. It's unprofessional, sloppy and suggests a lack of intelligence. I employ people to do work - if I have to check everything they do for mistakes, well, I might as well do the work myself and save on their wages.

If 20% of 11-year olds were on drugs, would people say "Yes, but that means 80% aren't"? In a so-called first world nation, EVERY child should be able to read and write to a certain standard. If the figure that couldn't was, say, 5% - well, you could possibly argue that. There are some kids that just don't want to be taught and I understand those that suffer with dyslexia.

But 20%? 20% of kids unable to read and write is simply nowhere near good enough.

(Oh, and it's 'doesn't')

Anonymous said...

OK so a fifth is closer to a sixth and in turn that’s closer to a twentieth which is your 5% so all is OK.
The fact is that the 20% have failed to attained a certain grade that doesn't mean they can't read and write or have no arithmatic skills at all.
As for drugs that’s a whole different world than spelling etc.
I see your point on employment but how would you be selective if they where all of the same ability? Lets face it we can all spell check and yes it would be lazy not to in that situation. Lucky for me I run my own business but if I could find another me he/she would be employed asap.
Thanks for the english lesson but surely it's "doesn't"
Have a nice evening Mr Chez (a play on words if I'm not mistaken? I like that)

Shit Sandwich said...

Anonymous - "spelling and grammar are overrated"? Only someone who can't use them properly would say that. It's akin to saying "addition and multiplication are overrated".

I daresay that you were in the 80%, possibly even towards the top end; you're reasonably articulate. Nonetheless, your writing style is lumpy and you've made 2 elementary mistakes - "doesn't" and "your" (which should be "you're"). I dread to think what the bottom 20% are like.

On a lighter note: A-Level results are out soon, and we can look forward to the Times's usual picture parade of attractive 18-year-old girls receiving their results. Wahay!

Chez Guevara said...

I am a bit of a grammar nazi, but that's because I think it's important. Too often I've heard teachers and education experts say that as long as the meaning comes across, spelling and grammar isn't that important.

That may be fine when you're writing a school essay, but isn't going to be alright when you're in the real world. I think this is one of the main reasons why the standards of A Levels and degrees are slipping.

Surely the point of school is to get you ready for the real world? A basic level of science and the humanities etc may be desirable; but surely the ability to read, write and do basic arithmetic should be a given?

If you've ever looked at the old O Levels papers - I'm sure that standards have actually gone down, not up.

And perhaps that's because the old methods of learning things by rote are not being done anymore.

I also do agree with Shit. I think the parents are partly to blame. I would be ashamed if my kids couldn't read or write properly. My parents taught me how to spell, do sums and my times tables. It must come down (as a parent) as to whether you want to take part in your child's education.

Like I said, I don't profess to know the answers. But I do think our nation's children deserve better.

But thanks for your contribution, Mr Anonymous. Hope to see you back soon!

Anonymous said...

Well spotted Mr S although one I had already pointed out. As for "addition and multiplication are overrated" no again bad comparison that is a science rather than an evolving and fluid language, which in its self is no excuse for bad spelling and grammar.
Here's a question how many people think they can spell compared to those that actually can? I think Chez is in his elite, I admit I could improve one hell of a lot and maybe I should have tried harder at school with such things. Uhm lumpy....and there was I thinking I had no style at all. Still I have had my work published in the past and even got paid for it so all is not that bad.
Interesting subject language.
Still think that report is being mis-represented though and if you want it to change how about volunteering to help out at your local school (maybe you already do) or even give me some private education.
Keep up the good work.

Chez Guevara said...

Thanks for that, Verglas. I think, judging by your articulate comments, you wouldn't have failed the exam at 11, irrespective of a few spelling mistakes!

And that's my point, really. The report doesn't say that the kids can't spell; but that they have a substandard ability to do even basic reading and writing.

In this day and age, with computers and spellcheckers, perhaps the ability to spell is less important than it was 20 years ago. I am perhaps old-fashioned in my appreciation of good grammar and spelling (for a 34-year old). But if you can't read and write, you're basically fucked from the outset, whichever career you take.

I can spell and have a fairly good grasp of grammar - perhaps because it was drummed into me, or perhaps because I just have a natural affinity with languages. But I did grow up in a very rough area, where lots of the local kids couldn't read and write.

My problem isn't actually with people that can't spell per se; often it's not their fault. Note I'm not blaming the 11-year olds. They're being let down by someone, whether it's their parents (who may also not be able to read and write), the teachers (who have their work cut out for them in primary schools like the one I went to), or the education chiefs who draw up the syllabus. Someone is letting these kids down and it has to change.

I did do voluntary work in primary schools when I was younger and I also ran the Anchor Boys (6 - 8) section of my local Boys Brigade. But that was all voluntary, I wasn't paid for it.

I'd love to know what the teachers think. I do know a primary school teacher - next time I see her, I'll ask. It could be that the SATS exams are misrepresented and the reality doesn't look as bad as the figures suggest.

But what worries me is what this 20% of kids are going to do when they leave school in 5 years' time. If they can't read or write now - what are they going to do when they leave school? If they can't read or write, they will be virtually unemployable.

Shit Sandwich said...

Verglas - my point was that spelling and grammar are basic building blocks in language use, in the same way as multiplication and addition are in mathematics (and by extension science). However, I understand what you're saying about language being mutable.

Apologies for my rather mean-spirited criticism of your writing - all I'll say in my defence is that I made the classic mistake of penning the comment after a couple of glasses of vino, and was in a fairly foul mood anyway. As for having stuff published - the same can be said of Jade Goody and Victoria Beckham. I wouldn't wear it as a badge of honour.

Generally, Chez is right - I don't think that the problem of school underachievers should be underplayed. Employers are complaining that even GRADUATES are coming to them with poor verbal and mathematical skills. Take a look at any "comments" section in one of the lower-brow newspapers or football debate forums: people REALLY struggle with the written language - standards are unacceptably low. If people are taught dumb, they'll act dumb. The rise in delinquency and fall in educational standards MUST be linked (although I can't offhand cite any reputable sources which say that they are).

Solutions? Parents need to take a more active role in their kids' education. They should be offered free refresher courses in English and Maths themselves. The target-based culture in eduction needs to be radically changed - it has led to constant figure-massaging, cheating with teacher collusion and, yes, exams which are far easier than they used to be.

Failing all that, how about just culling the bottom 20%?

Anonymous said...

No worries Mr S on your comment, fact is I write as I think and that's the attraction of it in my writing, at least that's the feedback I receive. I have found it rather amusing to get paid for something that I enjoyed writing, as for a badge of honour you can take me or leave me I don't look for anybodies acceptance and don't feel anybody should command mine.
Maybe I'm lucky and my son has had a good education as indeed it appears his fellow pupils have. I believe my education was lacking and I went to the same school as my son now attends so things do change.
Good on you Chez for volunteering after all these children are our futures and if you can inspire anyone to better themselves I think you've had a good day.
I shall make tommorow the start of my re-education in grammar.

Anonymous said...

Gawd blimey I have just installed a grammar checker on my Personal Computer and what a malarkey this grammar thing is. It is a full on professional program I shall not go into results of tests I have run but it has informed me on several new things. For example numbers one to ten should be written in full. Contractions should not be used in formal writing, although I now need to look up what that is. It also alerted me to not using capitals in the word SpellChecker, how many people get that wrong? Can anyone tell me why there is a capital C? I am burnt out and will be joining Mr. S in some vino tonight but look forward to learning more tomorrow.

Shit Sandwich said...

Spellchecker is a fairly crude tool (it's particularly shit when it comes to American spellings and proper nouns); grammar checker even more so (I'd imagine), as I don't see how it can make any allowances for idiom and context. The contractions one, I assume, is about "you are" vs "you're".

Was it a free download, or did you pay wonga for it?

Anonymous said...

It came from a publishing friend of mine free of charge and is an English-English version. Thanks for presuming it was "contraction" I did not know of but I am familiar with that as an engineer, it was formal writing I was not sure of. Yes of course you are right it is "you are" vs "you're". I think the best thing is for me to check the rules and apply them correctly. Once I have mastered them we shall join as one with Chez in his Nazi like grammar death squad.

Chez Guevara said...

You want to have some real fun, go to Little Zoe's blog at A true grammar nazi (and she means it).

Chez Guevara said...

Incidentally, Verglas, do you have a blog? I would be happy to add you to my blog roll.

Anonymous said...

Little Zoe said...

Thanks for the plug, Chez.

Yes, I am a Grammar Nazi, though I have recently mellowed somewhat. Occupational hazard of dating someone with appalling spelling, though he's forgiven as his failings lie in education, not stupidity.

When I take over the world, I plan to set the world on a compulsory, week-long intensive training course in basic spelling, grammar and punctuation. Anyone who fails the test at the end of the week will be shot. End of. (I'd never heard that endearing little term until Shit mentioned it, but I rather like it) I don't want anyone who cannot, or will not, learn.

Windows tried to correct my grammar once. Once.