Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) is disappointed with the government’s response to the recently announced OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. The research found that fifteen-year-olds in Ireland rank third among students in 35 OECD countries for reading, while they perform significantly above average in maths and science.
However instead of celebrating Irish students’ success at reading and focusing on redoubling efforts to further improve outcomes in this field, Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton expressed the government’s position in choosing to prioritise STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, saying ‘the strong message for me is it endorses our need to focus on science and mathematics as a key challenge.’
Chair of Children’s Books Ireland, Valerie Coghlan said ‘The PISA report just released shows that Ireland ranks with the very best when it comes to children’s reading. It is disappointing that our Minister for Education, while rather grudgingly acknowledging this, focuses strongly on the need to improve our grades in maths and science. What about accentuating the positive and using it to improve the negative? Good standards of reading are essential for the study of all subjects, including science and maths. But there is much more to reading than this. Recent studies in cognitive development show how reading has a beneficial effect on the brain’s development in many ways, including the brain’s ability to communicate within itself. Reading per se develops many different forms of intelligence, and reading literary fiction has a significant impact on emotional intelligence. Maybe we need more of this when assessing studies such as PISA.’
Author, dlr Writer-in-Residence and children’s literature programmer Sarah Webb said ‘Irish children are third in the world at reading which is something for all teachers, librarians and children’s writers to celebrate. The Minister needs to rethink his strategy and the message his words are giving to students and teachers. We should be celebrating our success and concentrating on getting our students to number one in reading – which is a vital life skill and the foundation of all education. We invest in our successful medal-winning olympic athletes and go for gold. So I say, invest in our bronze medal reading students, Mr Bruton. Invest in school libraries, invest in english teachers, school and public librarians, invest in books, invest in writers, invest in publishing. Let’s go for gold!’
Children’s Books Ireland is the national children’s books organisation, with the mission of making books a part of every child’s life.