On 14 November Antonia Canaris and Peter Hill directors of Neurosensory attended a seminar held by the Centre for Independent Studies called ‘Why Jayden can’t read’. The title is a reference to a book published in the United States that highlighted the problems with the whole word approach to literacy. This is not a sterile debate when you consider the huge percentage of 15-year-olds (close to 40% according to the ABS ) in Australia who leave school unable to read or write effectively or sufficient to gain employment. How this has come to pass was the subject of the seminar.
Jennifer Buckingham a leading literacy researcher at Macquarie University, Tom Alegournarias, President of NSW Board of Studies and Justine Ferrari, national educational correspondent with the Australian presented papers on the current state of literacy in Australia. Jennifer Buckingham and Justine Ferrari highlighted the appalling state of literacy in Australia and there was considerable discussion as to its cause. Tom Alegournarias provided a response as president of the New South Wales Board of Studies and members of the audience engaged in debate about the history of the crisis, why it has been allowed to develop, and it seems educational experts powerless to intervene.
The tragedy is that many years later , after the initial debate that prompted the writing of why ‘Jayden can’t read’ we are still engaging in an ideological debate between those who support the whole word style of learning and those who consider a phoneme-based approach the preferred evidence-based option.
There was certainly no answers but certainly a lot of goodwill to provide a united front to tackle what is really a scourge on our society.