Cursive ditched in digital age
Cursive writing lessons will be replaced with typing classes in Finland, raising questions about the future of handwriting.
Finland’s board of education says learning to type is “more relevant to everyday life”, and it appears several Australian experts agree.
“The research doesn’t find any benefits for cursive writing,” senior lecturer in Language Literacy at the University of Canberra, Dr Misty Adonious, told the ABC this week.
“A child will have a better concept and better memory for what a letter is and what it represents if they actually handwrite it ... [but] the argument is really against those pages of cursive, joined-up writing exercises which, in the end actually don't change many people's hand writing styles.
“When we teach kids particular downstrokes and where to start their letters, it's really based on how you had to use the technology of a fountain pen and ink.
“We actually don't use fountain pens and ink anymore, so maybe we should think differently about where we put our attention now.
“Cursive writing is cute, and nice, and decorative if you've got a leaning towards wanting to do it ... just like you might like to learn to crochet or knit,” she said.
Senior lecturer in English and Literacy Education at the University of Queensland, Dr Eileen Honan agrees that cursive is irrelevant.
“Being able to write in beautiful script has got nothing to do with the ability to read and write productively, creatively and intelligently,” she said.
Dr Therese Keane from Swinburne University says that many parents want their children to have the best handwriting possible, as exams remain largely handwritten.
“Parents ... [are concerned] that their sons or daughters may not have the right training to sit there and write clearly and accurately, and also under time pressure,” she said.
“And so the parents are quite concerned that their kids are going to be disadvantaged because they can't write in those conditions, because ... they're used to typing.”
There are advantages to having computer-based exams, given that they do not carry the risk of being marked down to illegibility or poor handwriting.
In fact there are some trials going on to convert NAPLAN to an online format, with plans for the exam will be conducted online from next year.