What you need to know

The Government is reforming the way children learn to read and write with the aim of teaching “structured literacy”. 1News takes a look at how the new system will work and why the change is being made.

New Zealand has a literacy problem.

A review by Education Hub two years ago found that only 60% of the country’s 15-year-olds achieved above the most basic levels of reading and writing. That, of course, means that 40% of 15-year-olds have difficulty with reading and writing.

Such declining literacy rates have been a concern for parents, academics and politicians for some time, given that literacy is the cornerstone of achievement in other subjects.

This week, the coalition government revealed details of its plan to raise those rates: by making schools teach structured literacy.

What *is* structured literacy?

Phonics is part of the structured literacy program.

Structured literacy is one of the two main approaches to teaching reading and writing.

It breaks down language skills into smaller parts, such as sounds, phonics (the relationship between sounds and letters), letters, syntax (sentence structure), and word meanings.

These different components are taught in a specific order, building on each skill and making sure the student understands each step before moving on to the next.

The structured literacy approach is considered especially helpful for those who may struggle with reading, such as students with dyslexia, but supporters say it can benefit all students.

This is why Education Minister Erica Stanford wants schools to adopt structured literacy.

“National and international evidence shows that this method is the most effective way to equip children with strong reading skills that are essential for their future,” he said.

“Structured literacy is about going back to basics and teaching children to read using sounds and phonics to understand words.

“This government has set an ambitious goal of having 80% of eighth grade students reach curriculum level by 2030, and structured literacy instruction is a critical part of how we plan to get there.”

All state schools will have to teach structured literacy from the first term next year.

The Government will spend $67 million before then to train teachers, distribute books and resources to schools and introduce phonics checks for students.

What are schools doing right now?

Some schools have already adopted a structured literacy approach, but many other schools teach what is known as “balanced literacy.”

Balanced literacy uses a combination of different ways of teaching reading and writing. These strategies may include reading aloud, small group reading, independent reading, and word study such as phonics and spelling.

Supporters of this approach say it recognizes that all students are different and helps children by giving them a variety of ways to learn.

Today, many schools adopt a teaching approach

What do teachers think of the Government’s measure?

NZEI Te Riu Roa, the primary school teachers’ union, said structured literacy has its uses, but is concerned the government is requiring only one approach to teaching children to read.

“There is recent evidence that structured literacy works for many children, but research also shows that personalizing and differentiating learning to meet the diversity of children we have in our classrooms is the key art that teachers bring to their work,” she said. the president of the NZEI Te Riu Roa. Mark Potter said.

“Teaching is an art and a craft, not just a science. A teacher knows what teaching approach will work best for the variety of students in his or her classroom. Imposing a one-size-fits-all curriculum does not work.

“We don’t expect politicians to tell doctors exactly what to prescribe for every patient, and for politicians to walk into every classroom and tell every teacher how to teach every child undermines teachers’ professionalism.”