Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Phonics Debate


The following are a few excerpts from the YouTube video on the Phonic Debate held in Sydney on 31.7.2018. I did not transcribe more as there was nothing new that was not said before.


    "The Australian College of Educators is the longest serving association in the teaching profession in Australia. The college is formed with the specific purpose of elevating the teaching profession in Australia and to provide all educators the opportunity and avenue……(the YouTube video was not audible)."

I enthusiastically wrote to The Australian College of Educators (ACE) which was another letdown. It appears that no association or educational institution is willing to discuss matters on how to reduce illiteracy but will spend money and time debating useless matters as in the Phonics Debate mentioned above. Refer to my emails to ACE and their response at the bottom of this page.


    "The forum is to discuss the myriads of ideas, experiences and practices relating to phonics to see the best outcome for Australian students. We are fortunate to have some of the leading educators, academics and professionals working in phonics in the reading arena in Australia."


I wrote to most of the panelists about a month before the debate and only one person Dr. Robyn Ewing responded. Our discussion is still ongoing and I will report this separately later.


    Rob Stokes: "I like the idea of challenging and testing different orthodoxes. That is what education should be all about. We should be engaging in robust debates. The acquisition of literacy skills is a miracle of education. Literacy is the currency of communication. This debate is about young people and how they best acquire literacy skills."


I wrote the following on the Facebook of Hon. Rob Stokes on 4.8.2018 and have yet to hear from him.


Hon. Rob Stokes, I listened to the Phonics debate held in Sydney and did not hear anything new about how phonics should be taught. I wrote to the Australian College of Education and asked them some relevant questions on why kids cannot read in English but can read in Malay and other languages. ACE said that the panelists were not able to help. ACE further said: Perhaps your requests would be better directed at education professionals such as lecturers or researchers. Would you like to listen to why many kids all over the world, including Australia cannot read in English but can read in many other languages?


    Prof. Robyn Ewing, a professor of education: “Teachers need to meet the needs of the individual child.”


This is another excuse by the countries speaking only one language as to why many kids cannot read in English. If phonics is taught correctly then ‘one size does fit all’. About 30% of kids are predisposed to shutting down when they are confused. These kids are confused by the wrong teaching by teachers around the world.


I kept hearing that phonics needs to be taught systematically, from simple letter-sound correspondences.


I have heard and read a myriad times elsewhere but no one explains why is it that despite decades of such writing/speeches the illiteracy rate is still as high as it is.


One of the speakers spoke about speaking to babies to enable them to develop their language skills. No one can deny this but what has learning to speak got to do with learning to read?


Another thing I have heard repeated many times is that of reading enough to children. Of course, reading to children is useful and should be encouraged but that in itself is not going to help a child to learn to read, or does it?


I have had many children who have come to me for tuition from English-speaking families who cannot read even one sentence in English despite having gone to kindergarten and primary one. They could speak way above grade level but could not read even one sentence in English. Surely we should know by now that being able to speak well does not mean that the child will be able to read well.


I have written many posts in my blog stating that kids learned to read well during both ‘whole language’ as well as ‘phonics’ teaching periods. About 70% of kids can read regardless of the method of instruction. However, about 30% of kids fail to learn to read – they shut down from learning to read- and the question we need to ask is why this is so.


I have explained why kids shut down in my blog, in discussions on LinkedIn, and now in my book ‘Shut down kids’. LINK

Following are my emails to and from ACE. So much for “The college is formed with the specific purpose of elevating the teaching profession”.

Luqman Michel
1 Aug at 13:28

Dear Sir,
I just listened to the Phonic Debate held in Sydney.
Unfortunately I have heard nothing new in this debate that I have not read or heard before.

I would be grateful if you could put me in touch with any research professor or any teacher  who is interested in finding out why kids can read in Malay and Pin Yin (Mandarin written in Roman /Latin alphabets) but not in English.

Or, a researcher or teacher interested in finding out why the illiteracy level has remained the same for decades.

Or, a researcher or teacher interested in finding out why the 'Reading wars' has been going on.

Following are the responses from Australian College of Educators.

To:Luqman Michel
1 Aug at 13:37
Dear Luqman,
 Thank you for your email.
 I have forwarded your email to one of the panelists from last night’s debate, and I will notify you when they get back to me with a few relevant contacts.
They may respond to you directly.

Australian College of Educators | ACN: 004476822 ABN: 96 562 879 327 
To:Luqman Michel
1 Aug at 13:44
Dear Luqman,
Unfortunately they said they were unable to help with your request.
ACE is a membership association that provides professional development events and the facilitation of education discussion and not a physical educational institution.
Perhaps your requests would be better directed at education professionals such as lecturers or researchers.
Sorry that I couldn’t be of more help.
Here is my reply to the email above:
Luqman Michel 

1 Aug at 13:52
Dear xxx (name removed),
Thank you for your prompt response.

I really do not understand what it will take to get educators to want to reduce illiteracy.

I have written to education ministers as early as 2010. I have the emails to and from Hon. Julia Gillard. She passed me onto the Education minister who did not follow through.

I teach so called dyslexic kids and what I have learned is from kids I have taught since 2004.

All my students could read in Malay and Pin Yin but not in English.

I know why a majority of kids cannot read in English and I am surprised that educators do not have an open mind to have a discussion on this matter.

xxx (name removed), please check with your CEO or experts and let me know that they are not interested in finding out why many kids cannot read in English as I would like to include this information in my blog.

Happy days,
Luqman Michel

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