Happy New Year! Don’t you love the smell of crayons? The endless colours (apparently Crayola has 133 colours). On special in January as the Back to School Sales commence and the endless articles about an education system in crisis appear in the media.

Shock, horror! The study that seems to have captured the public imagination is Brian Moon’s 2014 enquiry published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education.  The  study concluded ‘Many undergraduate students appear to have literacy problems so fundamental that remediation in the late stages of their degree program cannot hope to overcome a lifetime of poor literacy performance. It seems that problem can only be addressed in future by setting and applying appropriate admission standards and intervening much sooner in the students’ academic careers.’

Really?  Is this such a surprise?  It has long been known that the decision made in the 1970s to omit grammar from the curriculum had a devastating impact but perhaps more disturbing were the revelations concerning the limited vocabulary exhibited by the subjects.  Sixty five percent failed to score above 50% in the spelling test administered :

Easier         Harder
argument amateur
beginning conscience
coronary exaggerate
definite hypocrisy
maintenance miscellaneous
principal/principle parallel
resistant rhythm
sentence supersede

The second task was a test of vocabulary and morphological knowledge, including the ability to state word meanings and to identify word elements such as roots and affixes.

General vocabulary Professional vocabulary
agrarian cognition
candid draconian
hyperbole heterogeneous
orthodox homogeneous
peninsula pedagogy
malign profession
sanguine variance

(Yep, didn’t need a study to know that the results on the -ological would be dismal as this is not taught at school ).

And if you are curious about some of the definitions proffered check it out here.

Unless there is a significant cultural change whereby a staunch anti-intellectualism is no longer fervently embraced then in twenty years time there still will be a collective gasp of horror from the chattering classes when such a study is replicated.


Moon, B. (2014). The Literacy Skills of Secondary Teaching Undergraduates: Results of Diagnostic Testing and a Discussion of Findings. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(12)

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