The week my baby was born I think I drove the nurses crazy. Every time one of them would take my daughter’s observations like blood/oxygen levels, I would look at the results and ask “Is that good or bad?” They would invariably answer “Good,” to which my follow up question was “Is that an indicator of future academic success and wealth?” As we laughed off the absurd line of questioning I think they left the room wondering if I was serious or not. Especially as I said “Don’t tell the other babies her results as I don’t want them to be jealous.”
Of course I was kidding, however, there is a plethora of research in academic spheres that tells us what works well in education and what doesn’t. What biological features are advantageous for athletes or musicians and the whole nature vs nurture debate is still prevalent in many scientific disciplines. Although there is no one silver bullet, sometimes the data (or at least how it is reported) makes it sound like there is.
At a recent lecture on Early Childhood Education I heard some startling statistics originating from the United States. It seems that in some states they are using school literacy measures to predict future welfare and imprisonment rates. California uses Year 4 literacy rates to predict how many prison beds they will need in future years. I also heard that children under 5 years old, who are exposed to 550 words per hour, are more likely to end up in the welfare system compared to those who hear 2200 words per hour who are more likely to hold professional roles in future employment.
Although the importance of literacy skills is undeniable, as this grim picture was being painted I could not help but think of the learning landscape at Cedars and how vibrantly contrasting it is to this bleak future portrayed by the data if governments, schools and parents are not to act.
We have a dedicated staff who are passionate about progressing students from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’ We have literacy and numeracy groups right through Junior and Middle School and have remediation and extension programs targeted to individual students. Not to mention our dedicated parents who sit and read to their children each night, work on sight words, spelling words, homework and will do whatever they can to set their child up for success.
In a more positive article I read on speech pathology in the Australian Education Reporter, CEO of Speech Pathology Australia, Gail Mulcair was quoted as saying, “Speech, language and communication underpin the basic skills of literacy and numeracy and are necessary for students to understand and achieve in all subjects. Speech, language and communication are closely linked to behaviour, educational attainment, how children and adolescents interact socially and their self-esteem.”
According to the research from the Australian Early Development Index (2012) 17% of children start school with developmentally at risk or vulnerable scores in the language and development domains, and more than 25% are at risk or vulnerable in relation to their communication skills and general knowledge.
As I read the article on speech pathology and the concerning statistic above I was once again confident with the programs at Cedars to counteract these statistical trends presented across society.
We have invested heavily in the years preceding formal schooling to raise literacy levels prior to the commencement of Kindergarten. Expressive and receptive oral language skills are focussed on in our Prep program and the partnership we have with our Speech Pathologist, Mrs Collier ensures that all Prep students are exposed to her expertise and testing, plus she is available to give advice to parents as needed.
Statistics are not definitive.
They are generally gathered from across society and although helpful, they do not define our identity as individuals or determine our future.
Having said that I am passionate about swinging things in our favour. That is why we set the environment up at Cedars to be an advantageous one for our students, exposing them to stimuli that can help set them up for a life of learning and give them a strong foundation to build their life upon.
If you would like to learn more about speech pathology, follow this link to some Facts Sheets from the Speech Pathology Australia website:
You can also contact resident Speech Pathologist Mrs Jo Collier at Talking Speech https://www.cedars.nsw.edu.au/well-being/speech-pathologist/