I was listening to Marian Finucane’s podcast interview with Mark Patrick Hederman, the Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, this morning. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a teacher and I find the topic of educational reform quite interesting. The Junior Cert is being reformed by the Department of Education and Mr Hederman had some comments to make about it.
He was lamenting the fact that to this day the primary focus of secondary education is rote learning.
He recalled Patrick Pearse’s description of the education system – a murder machine: a machine that creates fodder for industry and kills creativity in children. Its ironic that the economy is now calling for creative individuals to step forward and help us find a way out of this recession – while at the same time students are being rewarded with college places for their ability to memorise.
Pearse’s progressive writings on education
This debate has been going on for a long time. From Dickens’ critique of the education system in Hard Times to Pearse’s writings on education as shown in A Significant Irish Educationalist – The Educational Writings of P.H. Pearseto the current debate. In this book you can see the devotion Pearse showed to the topic of
educational reform. He was a progressive thinker and prolific writer. Pearse will always be remembered for his leadership of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. But primarily Pearse was an educationalist.
What would he think now of today’s reforms of the Junior Cert? Would he laud Ruairi Quinn’s efforts
to boost literacy? Or would he see the compromise in the Junior Cert reform in the same way as Mark Patrick Hederman – doomed to failure?
I sat down with my son this evening and we tackled his homework together. He had Maths and some reading. As a part time Special Educational Needs teacher I know that for many parents and children reading is something that they struggle at getting to grips with. Thankfully my son enjoys reading with me or his mother every evening and is making steady progress.
Many children who have dyslexia or a reading difficulty have suffered years of failure and humiliation as their peers have left them behind. Many children, by the time they reach the age of 12, have given up trying.
I came across an interesting book last week by Patience Thomson called “101 Ways To Get Your Child To Read“. I really like its positive approach and its adoption of success and praise as a motivator to keep the struggling child trying. These methods work for the struggling child and as an encouragement to literate children to read more regularly.
1. Choose a book appropriate to your child’s age and interests. Barrington Stokes produce low reading age high interest books for young adults. Children will be able to get through the text and, importantly, finish entire books. This gives them a rewarding sense of achievement.
2. Completing books is a big deal and you should give your child lots of praise. I made a video of my son reading a book and he gets great sense of achievement when I show the video to friends and relatives.
3. Another confidence building trick is to make a word bank for your child. This can be made out of an old tissue box. Each new word your child learns should be written on a piece of cardboard and placed in the box. Thomson explains that you should revise these words regularly to strengthen the child’s recognition of the words and use it as an opportunity for more praise.
Children enjoying high interest books
4. Get your child to predict what the text is going to be about. This will keep your child alert as he reads the story and more able to comprehend the text.
Other books of interest are
Which School for Special Needs Guide to Independent Non maintained Schools Colleges Futher Education in Britain for Pupils Learning Behavioural Difficulties or Dyslexia
Oxford Reading Tree: Stage 2: Songbirds: Doctor Duck
Oxford Reading Tree: Stage 5: Songbirds: The Cinderella Play
Oxford Reading Tree: Stage 6: Songbirds: Clare and the Fair