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Reading Inquiry Will Fix National Disgrace

Reading Inquiry Will Fix National Disgrace - ACT MP Donna Awatere Huata

The Government has a real opportunity to fix the national disgrace of poor literacy standards by adopting the recommendations of the Select Committee Inquiry into Reading, ACT Education Spokesman Donna Awatere Huata said today.

Mrs Awatere Huata battled for three years to have the Inquiry held. "Most importantly, the Inquiry recommends a return to phonics," Mrs Awatere Huata said.

"The damaging whole language-phonics wars are over. Phonics and phonemic awareness teaching will close the gap for Maori and Pacific Island readers. To deny those children this kind of teaching is the worst kind of institutional racism. The future of Maori and Pacific Island children is more important than battles between academics.

"No one is denying that whole language works well for middle class children - but then again, most things do. The families that would benefit most if the Inquiry's recommendations are adopted are poor, powerless and voiceless.

Mrs Awatere Huata expected the committee's recommendations for tough new standards for graduating teachers would be welcomed. Most teachers colleges in New Zealand presented submissions to the committee.

"Only one college know what they are doing. The rest are a shameful example of what happens when tertiary educators are not held to account. The recommendations will ensure that new teachers will have a range of skills that will allow them to teach reading across the entire pre-tertiary sector."

Mrs Huata was concerned by the excuses of some teachers and principals. "We discovered teachers and principals who blamed the lack of reading skills on 'genetic deficiencies' in their students: a vile, racist cop-out for their own failure. We heard of many instances where the lack of reading ability was explained by a 'difficult or impoverished' home life. This narrow-mindedness in our educators is appalling. We must stamp out the bigotry of low expectations that is widespread through the education service, and stems from the Ministry of Education.

"It is now time to move on. For too long some educational professionals - mainly teacher unions and Ministry of Education officials - have buried their heads in the sand and said 'what reading problem?' Today's Inquiry provides the answers. Now the Government must have the guts to implement the changes we need to move ahead," Donna Awatere Huata said.

ENDS


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