Just as the latest international comparisons showed that students in Australia are among the best in the world in reading, education officials there began an extensive evaluation of how the subject is taught in the nation’s classrooms.
An independent commission met for the first time last month to begin its study of reading research, teacher preparation, instruction, and assessment.
While large numbers of children in the country have mastered reading, said Education Minister Brendan Nelson in opening the Dec. 8 meeting in Canberra, too many still struggle with learning the skill. “Is the way in which they are being taught to read,” he said, “supported by real evidence of best practice?”
The Australia Education Union, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, has charged that the minister’s focus on literacy is misguided, given that on the latest Program for International Student Assessment only Finland outperformed Australia in reading.
“The [PISA] results from countries such as the U.S.A. should also warn Australian decisionmakers against blindly implementing policies and practices which are clearly unnecessary in an Australian context,” Pat Byrne, the union’s president, said in a statement.
Coverage of cultural understanding and international issues in education is supported in part by the Atlantic Philanthropies.
A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2005 edition of Education Week