In a number of Western nations, concern over literacy and numeracy standards has put huge political pressure on education systems to improve the situation. Here in New Zealand, the government has recently introduced literacy and numeracy standards designed to improve basic skills in these key fields of achievement. What is perhaps less evident is that literacy and numeracy standards have featured prominently in the news over a long period of time—and that news has usually been bad.
The authors of this book argue that, despite ongoing concern, there has been little sustained scholarly analysis of the particular social conditions and political dimensions that have driven the intense interest that literacy and numeracy have received over the last 60 years. They observe that, whilst criticism has been relatively continuous, there have been distinct periods of time when criticism peaks. The authors identify three of these: the mid–late 1950s; the late 1970s and the most recent period. Each case study is seen to illustrate how debates over literacy and numeracy standards can be placed within a wider social, political, economic and cultural context.
In so doing the authors explore long-standing debates regarding the fundamental purposes of education. Are our Standards Slipping? provides a background and context for ongoing discussion.
Podcast: Hear Professor Roger Openshaw debate over the merits of National Standards has in fact being going on for over 6 decades:
Download: Professor Roger Openshaw on National Standards (streaming MP3)
(Podcast from Radio New Zealand National - Nine to Noon on Tuesday, 7 September 2010)