Australian curriculum · Barry McGaw · phonics versus whole language

Reading experts go in to bat for phonics in Australia

A new skirmish in the so-called ‘reading wars’ has once again broken out. This time in Australia!
A group of reading experts has written to the Education Minister Julia Gillard to complain that draft recommendations on the shape of the new English curriculum have omitted significant elements from previous recommendations made in an initial advice paper on English, released by the curriculum board last October. The most important of these omissions is the explicit teaching of sound to print correspondences, required to teach children to read and spell.
The details of the latest spat are set out pretty clearly by Yvonne Meyer on the Reading Reform Foundation site. And, you can read how The Australian has reported the issue.
The long and short of it is that this is yet another head-on clash between the advocates of whole language, in the guise of the three-cueing system (Searchlights strategy in the UK), and the proponents of synthetic and linguistic phonics. Unfortunately, Barry McGaw, the chair of board charged with overseeing the new guidelines, is no Jim Rose. McGaw seems to have turned his back on evidence-based research, leaving the reading experts on the outside looking in – for now!

One thought on “Reading experts go in to bat for phonics in Australia

  1. Interestingly, National Curriculum Board member Bill Louden has denied that the board has shifted its position and maintained that he ‘strongly supported the need for students to be explicitly taught phonics’.
    However, McGaw’s claim that he has consulted widely on the issue ‘from both sides of the debate’ seems to stand in contrast to the assertion by ‘the nation’s most respected remedial reading experts’ that they have not been consulted.
    I think the word ‘balance’, code for the three-cueing system, in the statement “In producing a slightly briefer version and seeking a balance with the comprehension dimensions of developing readers, it invites the conclusion that we have diminished the importance of phonics.” says it all.,,25549159-13881,00.html

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