Sunday, November 18, 2007

Children to read by sixteen - Tories

"The Conservatives have set out plans which they say will ensure children can read by the age of sixteen."
Actually they said six, not sixteen. I wonder how that would go down in Japan, where the curriculum covers the most basic 2000 kanji (not enough for true reading fluency by any means) by the age of about 16. Jules's boss (who has several children) mixed disbelief and astonishment when Jules mentioned some time ago that she could read before she went to school - "that's not normal, is it?"

Of course there are different interpretations of what it means to be able to read. I wouldn't expect a British 6 year old to be able to handle the more sophisticated newspapers or novels. But I find it hard to understand a world in which secondary school pupils also cannot read these things!


Tony Lee said...

A bit apples & oranges, no? On the one hand, you have a language that forms words from a single alphabet. On the other, you have kanji. I mean, just try to imagine the Japanese or Chinese equivalent of "How do you spell that?"

I recall seeing my mum ask my dad how to write a certain Chinese character (they're both long-term immigrants), and it was a painful and protracted procedure that ended with him actually going over and writing the damn thing down -- and even then, she quizzed him on stroke order! And as long-term immigrants, they both puzzle over some of the new words they see in the Hong Kong newspapers.

Anyway, isn't adult literacy in Japan among the highest in the world? Ditto for newspaper readership.

James Annan said...

A bit apples & oranges, no?

Oh, very much so. The UK version of "reading" being discussed seems to mean being able to pronounce words (presumably only fairly simple ones) based on their spelling (that's judging from what I heard on the radio). Of course that then means children can link these words to the conversations they hear, and learn without formal study. I don't know what it means in terms of words they really know at that age... In Japanese one can in principle guess the meaning of a word without having any clue about its pronunciation, although I'm sure most Japanese children learn the sounds first through conversation - but the link between the two is much more tenuous. In any case, it's obviously a barking mad system for writing.

There's a certain amount of dispute about the Japanese literacy figures. I get the impression that no-one (in authority) wants to talk about it but it is certainly the case that educated adults struggle to write the standard 2000 kanji (I've tested a few with my DS lite kanji test software). Here is an interesting link.