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Put speaking on equal footing


Thur April 17, 2014

SEARCHLIGHT wishes to add its congratulations to those already extended to the top examination achievers who received their awards at the National Awards ceremony last week. The nation is indeed proud of its young daughters and sons and looks forward to them continuing to achieve success in their chosen careers.{{more}}

At the same time, there continues to be concerns expressed by employers and parents alike that in spite of academic qualifications, many of these ‘bright’ young persons that we turn out do not seem to have the same proficiency in expressing themselves verbally. It is a concern not isolated to our country alone, but also being discussed globally.

Just last Friday, the TIMES of London published in its educational supplement some comments in this regard. In it, a Mr Peter Hyman, former senior adviser to ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, himself a leading headteacher, put forward strong arguments for placing greater emphasis on speaking eloquently, a skill which he states is just as important as reading and writing.

Learning to speak eloquently, he argues, is now a “moral issue” for schools, lamenting the trend towards many young people tending to speak mainly in monosyllables. Employers are often mystified that young people who apply for jobs with impressive academic qualifications have difficulty in expressing themselves clearly in interviews. That situation is one which applies here as well.

Hyman states that eloquent speaking skills are critical in helping “to unlock the door to help young people find their way into the world and to employment.” Talking is now an “undervalued area of literacy,” he contends, but it receives less time in the curriculum than reading and writing. It ought to be an issue to generate much discussion locally, especially in educational circles.

It is a matter very relevant to our society and which deserves some attention. The British educator has openly called for speaking to be put “on equal footing with reading and writing,” and for teachers to encourage students to engage in more discussions. He dispels the notion of a quiet classroom, stating that he much prefers students to be more vocal and so to learn to express themselves clearly and to be able to put forward their views quite eloquently.

Academic qualifications must be pursued, but it is important for young people to be rounded and hone their speaking skills so as to enhance their all-round development.