Four Corners: Nov 11

Monday’s Four Corners is the final episode for the year.

DigiKids, reported by Louise Milligan, looks at a growing problem of digital distraction amongst our kids (and a few adults too? Guilty!).

Why too many young Australians are struggling with literacy in the digital age.

“You see kids fall through the cracks. You see things get worse. And it’s really difficult as a teacher because you want to help everybody.” Teacher

There’s no more precious resource in Australia than our children. Equipping them with the reading and writing skills to face the future is vital, not only for their own success but for the nation’s prosperity.

“Literacy now is more important than ever. If you go back 50 years…if you didn’t have literacy and numeracy levels, you could still get a job. You could still support a family with that job….That era has now gone.” Education Dept Head

Alarmingly, a number of test results and international benchmarks indicate some of our children are slipping behind in the key area of literacy.

“Vocabulary has definitely decreased, and spelling is quite atrocious – small, simple words are really misspelt.” Teacher

On Monday, Four Corners examines the way reading and writing is being taught in our schools to find out what is going wrong.

“We have a situation now where schools basically get to choose their own adventure with respect to how they go about the important business, life-changing business, of teaching children how to read.” Academic

Teachers say they’re seeing children struggle with the study of English well beyond the first year of school.

“Writing’s a real worry. The results have been steadily getting worse – both for boys and for girls – boys are much worse than girls. But the average student is working about 12 months below where they used to be a decade earlier.” Education specialist

The program charts the critical years of schooling where children are most in danger of falling behind.

“That transition from primary into secondary school is a period where reading progress is really slowing down…children whose reading is better in Year 5 could be kicking onwards, but instead they’re not, they’re stagnating.” Education specialist

Some worry part of the problem lies with the level of knowledge teachers themselves have and the type of training they receive.

“At no point during my own education was I ever explicitly taught grammar. I felt like a fraud. How can I stand here in front of the class when I don’t actually know some of the rules?” Teacher

Teachers and students are also grappling with a growing problem – digital distraction. Today’s school children are the first generation of “digi kids” raised with digital devices from their earliest years. Four Corners investigates the concerns about how technology is impacting on these children.

“Part of the challenge for us as educators is that this is a real-time experiment that’s been conducted on us all.” Education Dept Head

The challenge facing educators is how to fix the problem. Four Corners has travelled around the country to look at how schools are using different methods to catch those who are struggling or have simply switched off.

“We’re flatlining as a nation…we’re not making the progress that we should be making and we need to redouble our efforts.” Education Minister

Monday 11th November at 8.30pm on ABC.

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