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Failure to Teach Reading Inexcusable

Failure to Teach Reading Inexcusable

Thursday 22nd Mar 2001 Donna Awatere Huata Media Release -- Education

ACT Education Spokesman MP Donna Awatere Huata today condemned the failure of schools to teach children how to read.

“We have reached the inexcusable low of having seven out of ten Maori unemployed not able to read and write properly.

“All the Minister of Education can say is that there is a shift in focus to reading recovery. But the Ministry has commissioned research that has raised serious questions about whether reading recovery works. Can we take it from the Ministers statement that his Ministry is ignoring its own research?

“Reading Recovery is part of the problem. What New Zealand needs is to upskill teachers in the phonics-based method of teaching. Using this system, children learn how to read by sounding out words rather than by guessing them.

“New Zealand teachers are clinging to techniques the rest of the world is dropping fast. Look and Guess methods do not work for poor children. Where it’s the only method a teacher knows, Maori and Pacific Island children are put on the back foot from their first day at primary school.

“Teachers’ colleges and the Ministry of Education are in denial, insisting that there’s no problem. Their low expectations have having a serious effect on Maori children. They should lift their expectations by setting literacy standards that everyone has to meet”

“Maori families have to also accept responsibility and not leave such an important task solely up to the Government. Many families have either lost, or never acquired the ability to read. Yet there’s still so much that parents and iwi can do to improve literacy. Even the poorest families have access to a library.

“We must get rid of the processes failing our children so that parents and iwi can concentrate on actually making a difference,” Donna Awatere Huata said.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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