Today’s Editorial May 09: Fix literacy problems now

Why can’t Johnny read?

Because he hasn’t been taught.

It’s that plain; it’s that simple.

The fairness of the Terra Nova standardised test given to assess the literacy of our government school children came under fire last week in the hallowed halls of the Legislative Assembly.

It was suggested that our students performed poorly on the tests for several reasons. Hurricane Ivan got its fair share of the blame (again).

It was suggested that students missed too many days of school to be subjected to the test.

It was suggested that students didn’t have enough time and the working conditions weren’t right to study for the tests.

The suggestions are flawed.

Reading assessment tests aren’t taught.

They are given to do what they say they are to do – assess students’ ability to read.

Students either can read, or they can’t.

No storms, days missed from school or poor working conditions are going to suck away any reading knowledge children have gained through proper education.

We owe it to our children and the future of our country to ensure that each and every student that passes through the portal of public education receives instruction that is better than adequate.

It is an injustice to pass any child from grade to grade if he or she can’t read. By doing so the education system isn’t just cheating the students, it is cheating the future of the country.

How many children who weren’t properly taught to read could have become great Caymanian leaders if a teacher or parent had taken up the challenge to insist on proper reading skills?

Those of us who interview students coming out of the Cayman Islands school system don’t need a reading assessment test to tell us that literacy rates among our youth are deplorable.

We see it when we ask them to fill out simple job applications.

And no, not every student who comes out of public education is illiterate. Many of our students perform admirably.

But we have to expect the best from all of our students – not just the few who naturally excel or have plans to pursue higher education.

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said we are betraying our children if we don’t make this right.

He’s right. Something is wrong in our educational system when it comes to teaching all of our students how to read and it has to be fixed.

Now.

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