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New Zealand Has Largest Reading Gap

New Zealand Has Largest Reading Gap

Wednesday 28 Aug 2002

The real news from the latest international literacy comparison is that New Zealand has the largest reading gap in the developed world, ACT Education Spokesman Donna Awatere Huata said today.

"The Education Minister has some gall to sell the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as good news when it actually reveals New Zealand has the least consistent results of any developed nation in the world.

"While our top students might be pretty good, we've got an equal number of kids who are among the worst readers in the world.

"This study shows fourteen percent of New Zealand kids read at the lowest level - that's a higher percentage than Finland, Korea, Canada, Japan or Ireland.

"Because poor reading is more prevalent among boys, the poor and non-Pakeha, the Minister and his bureaucrats blame our reading gap on economic and cultural differences. That is a blatant cop-out that deserves no credence. Perhaps our reading gap does arise from these differences. So what? We know it is not inevitable - research proves literacy gaps only persist where schools fail to provide effective instruction.

"The Minister has rejected all calls for change. He refuses to increase literacy training in teachers colleges, despite clear evidence that the top obstruction to effective literacy education is a lack of teacher knowledge and skills. He ideologically refuses to introduce phonics training alongside the whole language method, despite evidence that this would particularly help Maori and Pacific Island children. He will not track at-risk children's literacy.

"Our massive reading gap shows Trevor Mallard has failed to lift the basic standard in New Zealand schools," Mrs Awatere Huata said.

Donna Awatere Huata has recently published a book, "The Reading Race: how every child can learn to read", about literacy education in New Zealand.


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