Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Literacy and Numeracy

Now, I'm going to get myself in trouble here. I'm a little sick of work that should be done in English creeping into Mathematics and the applied subjects such as science, history and geography. If kids can't do basic operations, the Maths dept should be looked at closely. No argument here.

If kids can't capitalise, read a question, put together a coherent paragraph or write a simple report - please don't ask me to teach it in Mathematics. Two of these mentioned drive me batty - reading a question and writing reports especially when I teach that abomination subject Mathematics in Practice ("MIPS").

Don't get me wrong , I quite like teaching MIPS and its bastard brother Modelling. What I hate is the way kids struggle with the literacy components of both subjects. As a lower ability subject with a project basis, students have to be able to read the question, investigate the topic and write a report. Given that we teach the maths immediately prior to each assignment you would think it would be obvious how to do the assignment. Whooah betty.. nothing can be further from the truth.

The kids typically, if they read the question correctly can do the maths. Can they write a coherent report.. Very few.. who is responsible for teaching them how.. Maths?? Do I look like a competent English teacher with the cool shirt and students hanging off every Shakespeare bound word? Uh.. no.. I'm the guy with the shorts and sandals and socks and short sleeve shirt and ugly ties, possibly with an unkempt beard.

Science, History and Geography are hamstrung with teaching and reteaching concepts that should be covered competently in Maths and English. They have a real right to complain - they should be complementing our teaching and reinforcing topics NOT TEACHING CORE MATHS AND ENGLISH CONCEPTS! Whole child responsibility.. bah humbug.. someone must be responsible for each facet of learning - distributed responsibility is no responsibility.

Which leads me to a question raised by a few - where does responsibility lie for the teaching of core concepts. I would suggest that HODs and district supervisors are necessary as is a deputy or principal presence in the classroom from time to time. A chain of order that is responsible for maintaining standards across learning areas by subject specialists. These people can and should identify flaws, reward excellence and assist with raising standards across the board.

Why don't we have this? well.. maybe that's something we can all look into.

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