National Literacy Trust Announce – ‘Heroes’

She may at first be an unlikely hero, but when you think of it – her choice makes perfect sense.  The author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling has been named among 10 others as heroes for their services to literacy.

The author is said to have turned a whole generation of children into readers.  All the nominations have been chosen for their impact on communities reading and writing skills, or in some cases having overcome particular problems of their own.

The competition was launched by the Duchess of Cornwall who is a patron of the charity and their are many other notable nominations.  Here’s a couple more -

  • Lyn Hopson, from Doncaster, who runs schemes to promote a love of reading among young people
  • Leeds teacher – Velda Jackson
  • Richard O’Neill, a Romany gypsy author and storyteller who works in schools to improve literacy among traveller pupils
  • English teacher Caroline Thain, from Aberdeen

As you can see it’s not a list of high powered authors and literary geniuses,just real people with real jobs who have inspired literacy in others by whatever means.  All the nominations were in fact from the general public and then whittled down by a special panel including authors, business people and educators to name just a few of their roles.

There are talks to expand the nominations to organisations and even media sites, but these are not confirmed.  For example many people have suggested that the literacy section of the BBC is worthy of mention plus the various educational programmes that are transmitted.  Although it is difficult to access these from outside the UK – unless you use something like this -, so that would have to be considered.

The effective censorship of one of the world’s favorite broadcasters is unfortunate as it’s not really helpful to anyone outside the UK.  Although people do use techniques to access these sites – for example check this video out which explains the process thoroughly.

The idea though is to keep commercialism out of these particular awards and perhaps focus on the everyday people who provide such a boost to literacy particularly to our younger generation.


Education in Hong Kong

When you look at the league tables for schools and literacy there are a few countries who seem to have just ’got it right’.  Of course there are fluctuations but a number of areas always score consistently well in all areas of basic literacy.  There are several Scandanavian countries from Europe, but one area that is almost always there is Hong Kong.  So what makes this ex-British colony so successful at educating it’s youngsters?

There certainly seems to be a huge emphasis on simple hard work. The colony as a whole was built on this pretext and it’s education system reflects these roots.  Unlike many countries, the concept of class is virtually unknown – if you  need to better yourself and your lives then education is the major route.

Many also point to the fact that Hong Kong itself has little in the way of welfare benefits, the state is not there to step in for people who need them.  Parents invest in their children as a form of pension, obviously this means there is much more incentive for the child to succeed.  Parents also are known for their diligience and take an extremely keen interest in their childs education.  Ever heard a parent complaining to a teacher about lack of homework – it’s something you’ll hear regularly in HK.

Parent’s also invest heavily in extra tuition and classes for their children.  It is estimated that over 70% of  secondary school pupils have some form of additional private tuition.  The curriculum is very traditional and extremely academic with core subjects which include Chinese, Maths and English.  There are other classes on art , music and drama but these are normally trimmed back in later years and especially during the run up to examinations.

Hong King also has an extremely modern infrastracture with for example very high broadband speeds.  Also Hong Kong does not suffer from the restrictive internet censorship that is practiced in China or like this in Iran, where you’re likely to get blocked a lot  -in HK it’s not necessary to spend time learning how to sidestep the firewall and video blocks – like this - over and over again.

Critics would argue that Hong Kong should be ranked highly purely because  there entire focus is on examinations.  There is a selective education system which rewards the best results with access to the better secondary school.  The pressure on young children though to succeed is extremely high and opinion is divided whether this does lead to long term benefits.

The Young and IT Literacy

The youngest generation of our planet, have pretty much grown up surrounded by technology.  My youngest son could happily use a mouse before his 2nd birthday in fact I’m pretty sure he could use it before he could walk properly. In a earlier post we highlighted some of the other life skills that adults are missing out on. However this familiarity with technology has not led to a marked increase in overall IT skills.

My children are well used to using technology, but scratch the surface and their knowledge is pretty basic.  The problem with todays technology is it’s so easy to use that you don’t really have to expand your knowledge.  A recent survey by the Prince’s trust in the UK suggested that thousands of young people have very basic IT skills.

In their survey ten percent of the young people they spoke to couldn’t send a CV online to an agency.  Nearly a quarter would dread filling in a CV or job application online.  Nearly all of these people are regular users of technology but clicking around their phone, surfing through Facebook or updating status pages doesn’t really teach any useful skills.

Computer literacy is becoming more and more vital in todays technological world.  However when I asked a group of 15 year olds some basic IT questions it was apparent to me that this literacy is sadly lacking.  In fact out of the class full I asked only one had reasonable computer knowledge.  He had learnt while trying to set up a VPN on his iPad to watch BBC Iplayer – from here, when staying in the US for his summer holidays.  This young man apart, the knowledge was limited to point and click and a knowledge of phone apps and suchlike.

Basic computer skills are not just needed for a career in IT, there is virtually no sector where it isn’t a huge advantage to have at least some computer skills. It is also a way to get into a wide variety of different careers, computer literacy is a huge asset for any employee.