NSW Education authorities are now making an assessment for phonics compulsory for 2021 Grade 1 students. It’s about 20 years late!
Frankly it’s ridiculous. The evidence cited by Sarah Mitchell (State Minister for Education) has been available since the 1970s. Clearly an assessment for phonics sensitivity is required but most so-called education experts do not appreciate that, while phonics awareness is a necessity, it is NOT sufficient for the beginning reader. One wonders how it is possible that a government isn’t up to speed on the research.
The reason is that the Department of Education doesn’t follow the research. Remember how it wasted $450 million on the failed system called ‘Reading Recovery’, which didn’t recover many participants even though a plethora of vocal teachers lauded it. It was applied because of political pressure from a minority of interested parties without the benefit of any supportive data.
This new ‘initiative’ from the NSW Dept of Education won’t hurt. Bu it will mislead parents and teachers into believing that, by returning to a phonics inclusive approach, the solution will be found. The Department is playing catch up, again!
Phonics alone is NOT an effective way to teach reading.
Applying phonics as part of the learning process is clearly an improvement on whatever failed systems the Department currently applies, but it does not teach children how to read. Why the Department continues to trot out simplistic non-existent solutions beats us. Do they think that parents will blindly accept their poorly thought-out approaches?
Research has identified a number of necessary variables that are required as part of the English language acquisition process and phonics is clearly one of them. Phonics is basically the ability to associate a sound with a written letter. There is also the assumption that those tested will somehow have no difficulties processing the sequences of sounds/letters. This is false because many children will easily follow this approach innately without appreciating their actual cognitive activities.
We know from intensive research into reading acquisition that, irrespective of the instructional methods used by teachers, some 60% of children will learn how to read. So this means, that irrespective of the teaching methods utilised by their teacher, around 60% of students will work out for themselves the nature of the alphabetic principle, how to access phonemes, how to process a sequence of phonemes into co-articulated utterances, and more.
When you understand that schools currently claim a 60% success record in literacy, you will see how meaningless this claim really is. Alarmingly, the remaining 40% are then generally noted as having some kind of learning difficulty – or, as teachers frequently tell parents, “He/she will come good later.” This is not true, and the failure rate of children learning to read can be attributed to the instructional inadequacy of the teaching.
This is not the fault of the teachers, but of the way in which they, themselves are being trained.
We have no aim to be inflammatory, or political here – we are simply driven by our passion for the subject and our work of more than 20 years, built on solid research that the Department of Education chooses to ignore.
The unique I Can Read system has taught nearly half a million children to read since 2003 and has never had a failure with its core programme. The I Can Read methodology is completely driven by research and was created by Australian registered educational psychologists.