How we can improve literacy
Work is broken into pieces and each piece assigned to a member of a small group.
Being from the United Kingdom, I am fortunate to live in a country where literacy is not considered a problem, for children or adults.
It is taken for granted that everyone you encounter will be literate. Instead, the educational hurdles we face include a lack of adequate funding for schools, a shortage of teachers, and dealing with student mental health in an exam-centric era. Many people are unaware, therefore, of the literacy problem that has gone unnoticed.
Low literacy skills can lock people out of the job market, and indeed, daily life itself.
A third of businesses are unhappy with the literacy skills of those entering the workforce. KPMG, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, found that the lack of economic competitiveness due to illiteracy costs Britain £2.5 billion every year.
Without the foundation of literacy, children cannot access the rest of their education. When they grow up, they in turn cannot support their own child’s learning, leading to a vicious cycle.
If I were the head of the Department of Education, in addition to addressing the problems above, my primary strategy would be altering the very nature of the classroom environment.
Although there is currently a shift towards more strenuous individual testing around the world, this is hardly necessary for young children. The focus should be on cooperation, not competition.
The competitive nature of schooling from a young age naturally creates ridicule for low performers and contempt towards more successful students.
A possible alternative would be the jigsaw technique- a method that makes students dependent on each other to succeed. Work is broken into pieces and each piece assigned to a member of a small group. After learning their allocated pieces, students must then teach it to the rest of the group.
One possible example where this can be used to improve literacy is giving each group member snippets of dialogue. They must then collaborate to comprehend the conversation. In this system, it is in everyone’s best interest for other people to succeed.
Studies have found that such cooperative methods increase self-esteem and even individual test scores for all skill levels, since teaching others reinforces your own knowledge.
Pupils also like school more. An interesting side-effect of collaborative learning is a reduction in prejudice and increase in friendship among ethnic groups. Less racial conflict in the future is better for both society and the economy. In the classroom, it can mean a more comfortable learning environment.
Developing countries, often home to many ethnic groups, may thus also benefit from methods like the jigsaw technique. Its relatively low cost to implement makes it even more suitable for developing countries.
Throughout the world, people tend to fall out of love with reading and writing as they grow older, which is a great shame. But easing pressures in the classroom can help make sure every kid has robust literacy skills, as they may actually enjoy their learning.
This article was factually correct at the time of publication.
Originally published on medium.