The value of Comprehensions in Primary School

Without a doubt, if a child is unable to comprehend in primary school it is highly unlikely they will be successful.  Comprehension is the cornerstone of every human endeavour.  Without it, it would be impossible to begin an assignment, complete an assignment or even know what the assignment was.  Primary education should make it essential that students learn the skills necessary for time management, organization and comprehension.  The ability to comprehend filters through all aspects of a young person’s life.  Direct assessment of comprehension through reading assignments is only one measure of the skill of comprehension.  Understanding directions is a vital part of a student’s academic life, both written and verbal.  The biggest hurdle of children with attention disorder is their inability to focus on instructions if given during the chaos of class dismissal where there are many distractions.

There are physiological impairments to comprehension as well as socio-economic barriers. Poverty and the lack of meaningful social interaction can affect children and their comprehension in so many ways.  One way studied at great lengths is the underdevelopment of language.  Without sufficient language development, comprehension of standard academic texts and terminology make it nearly impossible to comprehend in a typical classroom setting.  For example, Hakim can tell you what a story is about if asked, but if instructions say to “critique” a passage of the story he may write a “criticism” because of confusing the two terms.  Without the exposure to middle or upper middle class society, there is much that is missed that contributes to the standard instructions given in primary education and certainly as students progress to high levels.

Susan Goldman describes in Future Child that in today’s society learning to read is commendable.  But success is had only by students who are able to “read to learn”.  They must be able to analyse, reason and collect different ideas, disciplines and knowledge from reliable resources to create and expand their future.  It is this skill that teachers must value and possess.  It is a realization that parents and guardians must accept and that students must be prepared to handle, particularly at the primary educational levels.

In the same journal, Neil Duke points out that since the 1997 National Research Council report “Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children”, teachers still seem to prefer teaching word recognition reading over the more difficult pedagogy of comprehension and vocabulary.  In other words, according to Duke, “the easier-to-master skills are being attended to, but the broader domains of accomplishment that constitute preparation for comprehension and learning in the later grades – vocabulary knowledge, comprehension strategy use and conceptual and content knowledge – are being neglected.”

It is a shame that education in America cannot advance as quickly as the automobile or cellular phone.  Even though it is vital to our future, the investment we are willing to make in teaching and schools is dismal.  Here again we are faced with a socio-economic choice.  Provide for our citizens so that they can improve their circumstances or prepare to live in a world that is segregated into haves and have-nots.  Schools that challenge and drive our students will demand more from those who have because of their value to society.  Meanwhile, schools that demand more but do not receive it will service the have-nots and do a poor job in preparing its students. Each will live together in this society, but it will not sustain the separation for very long.