Contributed by Minda Marshall of LectorSA, a member of ADESSA
Finding the way out of the storm: what is needed?
Governments have already identified that education plays a significant role to improve human capital. Good education outcomes ensure macro-economic stability; ignite inclusive growth, and advance their country’s ability to be globally competitive. Improved education outcomes also lead to an increase in tax revenue and GDP. It lessens the demand on social services, health services and safety services. It contributes to low levels of crime and improved health. A lot has been done to research new and efficient ways to improve education. New curricula are developed, and vast investment is made to enhance learning environments.
The most significant gap currently challenging the improvement of educational outcomes globally is the lack of capacity in our learners, students and workforce to intelligently work with visual information. To achieve this, and other development outcomes, the foundational skills and strategies needed for visual intelligence should receive urgent attention.
The basis of learning is to interact intelligently with information. This includes the skills and strategies needed to find relevant information. To know how to connect new information to your schema of understanding. And to understand how to use the information you have now internalised to create new knowledge. Visual intelligence is the ability to process, understand and express visual information. One of the cornerstones of visual intelligence is reading with adequate comprehension. If 74% of our Grade 4’s cannot understand what they are reading, they will struggle to work with, and learn from visual information for the rest of their lives! They won’t be able to use the information they have to make intelligent choices towards a better future for themselves and their children.
Reading is not just recognising symbols, or reading and writing basic words – there is much more to reading than what meets the eye. Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning. Good reading does not develop naturally as the human brain is not ‘pre-wired’ for written information, but for spoken. This is one of the reasons that humans have, for generations, transferred knowledge through singing and story-telling. With the advent of written language, we’ve developed different strategies of training the brain to read with understanding. This has arguably been one of the most significant challenges facing nations in the last few decades. One of the critical aspects of learning that was recently proven through neuroscience is that the human brain is a self-organising creative system.
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