Blog Post

Numeracy and literacy are important but what about oracy?

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 27 October 2016



Numeracy and literacy are important but what about oracy?
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 196
Posted DateThursday 27 October 2016 10:59 GDT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen

The other morning in the shower, I was reflecting on the UAEs reading initiative.

I could not help but wonder if the ability to hold a good conversation was as important as being able to read well. And so I asked myself the question "Is conversation as important as reading?" or "Is the love of conversation as important as the love of reading?"

Of course, we need both, and in many ways, they are equally important in life but if that is the case why is so much emphasis attached to reading and writing - so-called literacy. In school, once we have learned the four basics of language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing - the educational focus tends to be on reading and writing. In fact, listening and speaking are not really taught in schools they are more absorbed than taught and what teaching does take place is by our parents.

I suspect the focus on literacy, more than anything else, is for the purpose of being examined on what we have been taught. It is far, far easier to test someone's knowledge by getting them to answer written questions or writing an essay than having a conversation about what they know. Being taught to listen and to speak well, in other words, hold a conversation, in its various forms such as discussion, dialogue, and debate don't get much of a look-in. in our exam-obsessed educational systems.

But think about it - in our adult lives which is more important? In the home and in the office which is the more important life skill? The ability to read, the capacity to write or the ability to hold a good conversation? As very young children, when we are learning the basics, doesn't listening and speaking naturally come first? Isn't the ability to hold a good conversation the foundation of literacy? Shouldn't more focus be placed here?

Well, I went to Google and Googled something like "Is conversation more important than reading?". And I discovered something quite fascinating - a new word - oracy - well at least to me and my spell checkers, though if you are in Education you well be familiar with the term.

The concept of ‘oracy' was coined as recently as 1965, by the researcher Andrew Wilkinson to give the subject of ‘speaking and listening' more gravitas. So to numeracy and literacy, we need to add oracy.

  • numeracy: the ability to understand and work with numbers.

  • literacy: the ability to read and write.

  • oracy: the ability to express oneself in and understand spoken language.

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
David Gurteen

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