adorable schoolboys reading book in library

Three priorities in education: reading, reading and reading.

We talk a lot in education about the gaps in the learning process. Personally, working with universities in different countries, everywhere it is a challenge to catch up with new students, a gap that often not only fails to be closed, but ends up in the dropout of students with low performance, feeding a cycle of inequalities, lack of opportunities and poverty.

But let us look at school education. Clearly there are many challenges and problems in this important and complex area to implement with quality. However, just as a house must be built from the ground up, so must the learning process.

So, let us consider that a high percentage of the population does not understand what they read (functional illiteracy), and now let us look at the figures that show that students of 6, 7, 8 and even 9 years old still do not know how to read, a gap clearly exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic of covid 19, which we have tried to level with curricular prioritization, and that continues to drag important deficiencies.

Thus, if we want to think about public policy priorities in education, it is not so difficult to find the path to follow: read, read and read. Finally, it is the ability to read and write that enables the learning of other skills and knowledge, both in the teaching of the first formative cycles, as well as those skills expected of students in more advanced courses.

It is true. Teacher training and evaluation systems leave much to be desired and this is something that must be improved promptly. It is true that funding is always a sensitive issue, although it is enough to take a walk around the schools to see the amount of resources lost and misused (perhaps it is not a lack of resources, but the way in which they are being used).

We could list a series of challenges. But what if the focus for the next few years were that every child should reach the highest level of literacy? is it crazy? is it too costly?

The answers to these questions are fairly easy to visualize. If this were done, we would be building a new foundation of capabilities for the generations of the next 20 years, with more and better learning skills, communication and understanding of the world around them. It is neither crazy nor expensive to do so, it just lacks vision and political will.

Perhaps if political commitments and slogans were removed, to put the needs of the country’s children and youth at the center, the path to follow would be clearer. Perhaps, the authorities could put away the small calculator they carry in their pockets, to open the pages that contain a world to be discovered, to bring out the best in each student and, with it, the talents that will build the future of our society.

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