One third of Australian school children are failing to learn to read, a damning report into the country’s education system has found.
The report, published by research group Grattan Institute, says that one third of school children are being failed by an education system that uses discredited theories to teach reading.
It calls the failure a “preventable tragedy” and says its cause is based on “decades of disagreement about how to teach reading”.
“In the typical Australian school classroom of 24 students, eight can’t read well,” said lead researcher Dr Jordana Hunter.
“Australia is failing these children.”
The report also says that students that lack reading skills are more likely to fall behind, disrupt class and end up unemployed or jailed. It says this comes at a cost of over $40 billion to the Australian economy over their lifetimes.
To combat it, the Grattan Institute is urging governments and schools to commit to a style of teaching known as “structured literacy”.
It teaches students to sound out the letters of each word, and encourages teachers to read aloud to their class.
It also encourages extra training for schools and teachers and requires schools to do universal screening of reading skills to help struggling students catch up.
“If schools don’t take this approach, disadvantaged students will be left even further behind their advantaged peers, who tend to have richer learning opportunities outside of school,” the report says.
“The reason most of those students can’t read well enough is that we aren’t teaching them well enough.”
It says that with the right techniques, at least 90% of students can become proficient readers.