“Good writing is clear thinking made visible.” — William Wheeler, journalist and author.
A fundamental purpose of education is to help learners to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills. Reading, writing and numeracy skills are the fountain head nurturing critical thinking and communications abilities.
Those who have a high ability in writing lucidly honed the skills in in their primary and secondary school levels. Post-secondary education only builds on what they already have from high school.
The Basic Education curriculum has capacity to lay the foundation for strong literacy skills. They provide a window to the intellectual heritage of mankind — arts, humanities, and natural sciences — that should develop the skills.
A great deal of teaching and testing materials is organised around four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. The four skills model still remains pedagogically useful today as the English language curriculum and the syllabuses that are developed to impart the skills allocate copious hours for listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Curriculum developers envision an instructional environment that is culturally and intellectually satisfying. When learners continuously listen, speak, read and write about the content, their imagination, and thinking is stretched to the uttermost limit.
What happens when learners are exposed to culturally rich reading matter is that they are able to develop the writing ability that employers look for. This is because lot of technical and professional and administrative tasks in government and the corporate world take place through writing.
The thinking which underlies good writing implies that the young man or woman has a fund of knowledge and critical and conceptual skills that makes it all too easy for him to approach problems, write and present information intelligibly and make coherent arguments in his field of expertise.
The clarity, simplicity and conciseness that good writing requires is not occult science.
It is founded on reading good books and listening to good speakers. It can be nurtured through school and picked up by a student who has the passion.
Once a child has mastered reading skills, all he needs is access to reading materials that he can comprehend throughout the 12 years of basic education. Most schools have libraries with lots of fiction and nonfiction works. Novels, biographies, essays, speeches, letters, pictorial works — all help to stretch the mind and imagination.
A child with an established reading habit has it very easy writing on topics and ideas he has read about or has ability to make sense of the situation and the environment — factual or imaginative — in words so easily. The writing skills required in outside school — memos, in circulars, speeches, reports, editorial and opinion writing and other printed matter about or from an organisation — is developed in classrooms in primary and secondary schools.
Deficiency in writing skills should not arise if its utility outside school is appreciated. The education system should expose learners to good fiction and non-fiction books. School authorities should also create hours where students can feel free to read with pleasure.
Parents should also ensure they buy, not just textbooks for their children, but story books and books on biographies.
—The writer is the Communications Officer, Ministry of Education