Monday, 27 August 2012

National Literacy and Numeracy week

It's National Literacy and Numeracy Week in Australia this week.

I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the events - which can be found on this website:

However, I'd also like to point out that the URL indicates this is an Australian Government site. The same government that is currently discussing cuts to Arts subjects in mainstream curriculum. This is in the face of the many studies that indicate greater literacy and numeracy skills in students who have regular access to music, visual arts, dance and drama in their regular class time - not just as extra-curricular classes outside school. There's an excellent paper that can be read if you follow this link:

The paper touches on the integrated exposure to the arts that is a part of life for less 'civilised' cultures; where dance and music for religious observance is a normal part of life, painting for decorative purposes ditto... It looks at practices in other parts of the Western world at different times. It looks at practices in Australia, and the implications for our education system, and more importantly, for our children.

There appears to me to be a great push to increase the technological capabilities of our school system, and offer our children the possibility of a laptop each in the classroom. But, should this be done at the cost of offering them music, paint and clay, creative movement and drama?

1 comment:

  1. A comment from Mel, who is one of my regular followers, who just posted this on Facebook for me as she's on her mobile phone which doesn't support blog comments:

    As an Italian teacher I totally understand the pain the 'arts' based-discipline face.

    There was a time when language, music, art, drama and even maths and science could not be separated. Learning and knowledge was indeed multidisciplinary. And I don't mean in the sense that students went from one subject to another several times a day. What one learnt in art influenced their language, their music and their scientific and mathematical thinking. Nowadays literacy and numeracy are cross curricular priorities, but many of the subjects that support learners to develop a range of literacy and numeracy skills have been devalued and reduced to 'electives'. I still take exception to the fact that students who struggle with literacy are so often withdrawn from language classes. What better place to learn about the functions of your own language than through another? Add to that the minimal scheduled lesson time for 'elective' subjects and often what we do manage to achieve feels almost tokenistic.

    The school I teach at is a laptop school from year 9 to year 12. Next year laptops will be introduced at year 8. Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly appreciate the value and potential of technology. But I also expect students to be able to engage person-to-person. When I finally manage to get my students to tear their eyes away from the screen, take their headphones out and try to get them to engage with other people, so often I am met by boredom and apathy. If they can't listen to their own music, focus solely on their own narrow interests or play games on the computer, they don't want to know. That's hardly helping the various aspects of their literacy and numeracy.

    And if parents aren't willing to support you in helping their child develop critical life skills, then hands start getting thrown up on the air. What more can you do?

    I teach some amazing kids. But it is an uphill battle at times.