Improving literacy, numeracy and oracy
Nassau, The Bahamas
The Ministry of Education has pointed to plans to allow for the expansion of focus on literacy and numeracy by using a coordinated approach to improve both standards at the national level.
The ministry must be applauded for its intentions, but in addition to intensified literacy and numeracy efforts at the primary school level, there is also a need to focus on oracy or the oral skills of our students.
Many of our children and youth have a deficit of reading, writing and speaking skills. A comprehensive focus on all three skills is necessary. They complement one another.
We applaud those young people who are excelling in various speech and debate competitions. But the majority of our young people seem to become tongue tied when asked to speak in front of their peers or others.
This is not just natural shyness. It bespeaks a lack of confidence and a lack of mastery of various and basic verbal skills. These are skills our young people will continue to need in a global economy in which our major industries require superior language skills, including superior verbal skills.
That English is the world’s lingua franca is a major comparative advantage for The Bahamas, but only if we master it, along with other world languages.
As regards the ministry’s proposed efforts in the areas of literacy and numeracy, we note similar such efforts by successive governments and ministers of education. Many of them have had limited success.
The country will require more engineers, scientists, and other professionals who are numerate, a focus on this area is urgent and welcome.
Of course, reading is a prerequisite for a more literate country. In this regard, a love of learning and reading begins with parents and guardians who enjoy reading and whose curiosity propels them to life-long learning.
Whatever the deficits in our home life, schools can make an enormous difference in encouraging our young people to appreciate the joy of discovery and adventure that may be found in the world of ideas and books.
The Ministry of Education’s expanded focus on indigenous educational material may go a long way in helping to inculcate this spirit of learning in our young people, whether they are at risk learners or students who simply need a little more encouragement.
Disturbingly, many professionals and leaders in various areas of national life also demonstrate verbal and reading skills which reinforce in our young people certain poor attitudes and sloppy practices as regards to literacy and oracy.
Rather than simply bemoaning the lack of these skills in our young people, these professionals and leaders may wish to lead by example, improving both their reading habits and language skills.