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The importance of teaching literacy in the Australian Curriculum

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Kate Lushington

on 5 November 2012

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Transcript of The importance of teaching literacy in the Australian Curriculum

Kate Belfrage The importance of teaching literacy in the Australian Curriculum What is the state of Australia's literacy? So what are we doing about it? In 2008 the MDEGYA advocated the development of an Australian Curriculum identifying that "literacy and numeracy are to be the cornerstones of schooling" (MCEETYA, 2008, p. 5)
Education must “anticipate the conditions in which young Australians will need to function as individuals, citizens and workers when they complete their schooling” (ACARA, 2010, p. 6).
The Australian Curriculum has been developed with seven general capabilities that are an "integrated and interconnected set of knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions" (ACARA, 2012, p. 5)
Literacy is one of these and must be taught across all learning areas and all stages of learning Three major issues Almost half the population do not possess the necessary literacy skills to function in society
Australia's literacy rate is showing little improvement
Preservice teachers are not confident in being able to teach literacy Preservice teachers' literacy levels A study by Loudon and Rohl (2006) revealed that:
the relevance of preservice teacher training course for teaching literacy is a major issue
preservice teaches feel they have adequate personal literacy levels, but do not feel they have the necessary skills to teach literacy
more experienced teachers felt that literacy was a major issue for preservice and beginning teachers Implications of low literacy levels At school, students are not able to complete required tasks and assessment pieces
They struggle to understand concepts
In the workplace, injury and even death can result when people do not understand signage and the meanings of words such as 'mandatory'
There is added cost to businesses for training
Opportunities for upskilling and advancement are limited
(Canberra Institute of Technology, 2010) What do these surveys tell us? They asses three main types of literacy:
Prose literacy
Document literacy
Qualitative Literacy
There are 5 different levels
Level one - very poor literacy, to the point of inability to read a medicine bottle
Level two - very poor literacy, but has developed some capacity to function, e.g. memorising
Level three - considered minimum level to function
Level four and five - higher order processing In 2006, 46% of Australians aged 15-74 had literacy skills below the considered minimum skills for functioning in society (Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey - Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008b).

Australian language, literacy and numeracy levels have shown little improvement in the decade since the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) (Canberra Institute of Technology, 2010) Australia's International Comparison Source: Australian Council of Adult Literacy, 2001 What is Literacy? “The ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities, at home, at work and in the community - to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential” (International Adult Literacy Survey in ACAL, 2001, p. 8)
The ABS argues the definition of literacy is changing in the 21st century
'Multiliteracies': understanding how different mediums change the meaning of something Literacy in the Australian Curriculum Literacy involves students in “listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts” (ACARA, 2012, p.9).
Builds on Vygotsky's ideas of social constructivism
Therefore knowledge is constructed in different ways in different subject areas Literacy is now the responsibility of all teachers Literacy education must overcome two "dangerous myths" (Freebody, 2009)

Subject specific literacy can be taught in all learning areas as "there are significant differences in the way different learning areas structure texts and in the language features and vocabulary that students are required to know and use” (ACARA 2012, p.11).

For example
- reports and formulae in Mathematics
- discussions and explanations in History
- experiments and reports in Science
Teachers need to ensure students become aware of “the different ways in which different texts build knowledge; how language and visual information work together in different ways in different curriculum areas” (Freebody, 2009). The Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society paper (OECD, 2000) suggests that when addressing adult literacy a broad scope of policies, in particular those related to youth literacy, is needed (in ACAL, 2001, p. 7).

Government initiatives such as the National Year of Reading are contributing to improving Australia’s literacy rates in young people for the future (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Other initiatives What about preservice teacher literacy? This area still needs much improvement

Universities are responsible for ensuring preservice teachers are adequately prepared

An initiative by the Queensland Government to introduce a literacy and numeracy test at the end of preservice primary teacher programs was scrapped earlier this year by Campbell Newman

We may see an improvement in preservice teacher literacy levels in the future if the implementation of literacy in the Australian Curriculum is successful References Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). The National Year of Reading: libraries helping to make Australia a nation of readers. Retrieved 17th October, 2012 from

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008a). Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (Reissue). Retrieved 17th October, 2012 from

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008b). Australian Social Trends, 2008. Retrieved 17th October, 2012 from

Australian Council for Adult Literacy. (2001). A Literate Australia: National position paper on the future adult literacy and numeracy needs of Australia. Retrieved 21st October, 2012 from the ACAL website

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2012). General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from 18th September, 2012 from

Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority. (2010). The Shape of the Australian Curriculum. Retrieved 18th October, 2012 from ACARA website

Canberra Institute of Technology. (2010). Literacy and numeracy are holding Australia back [blog post]. Retrieved 21st October, 2012 from

Christie, F. & Derewianka, B. (2008). School Discourse: learning to write across the years of schooling. London: Continuum.
Freebody, P. 2009. Literacy Across the Curriculum [video file]. Retrieved 21st October, 2012 from

Krause, K. et al. (2010). Educational Psychology for Learning and Teaching (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Cengage Learning.
Loudon, W. & Rohl, M. (2006). “Too many theories and not enough instruction”: perceptions of preservice teacher preparation for literacy teaching in Australian school. Literacy, 40(2), 66–78. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9345.2006.00440.x

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training & Youth Affairs (2008) Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Retrieved 21st October, 2012 from the Australian Curriculum website

Sharp, K. (2012). Breaking down the barriers: using critical literacy to improve educational outcomes for students in 21st-century Australian classrooms. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 20(1), 9 - 15. Retrieved 21st October 2012 from
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