Penmanship to Target Numeracy and Literacy
Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS DIVISION
Education Towers, No.5 St. Vincent Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Phone: 868-622-2181 www.moe.gov.tt
Penmanship to target Numeracy and Literacy
The Penmanship with a Purpose Project is the latest initiative by the Ministry of Education in its thrust to ensure that all primary school students leave with the ability to read, write and count. The initiative refocuses schools’ attention on the hand-writing skills of students and takes a cross-curricular approach by evaluating written work in Mathematics, Science, History, Social Studies, Art and Foreign Languages.
The Honourable Anthony Garcia, Minister of Education said, “Penmanship is not being tested at primary school or the Secondary Entrance Assessment (S.E.A.). The S.E.A does not include Penmanship in its Table of Specifications and as such will not be scored.” The Minister’s response sought to correct misinformation in the public forum that penmanship formed a component of the SEA.
Handwriting is the primary mode of learning words, vocabulary and language. However, many students’ experience handwriting difficulties. Penmanship or the skill of writing by hand is geared toward helping students with language acquisition and learning in general.
A 2010 study at Indiana University, of students exposed to different letter-learning instruction, revealed that the neural activity among children who had practiced printing letters by hand was far more enhanced than their counterparts who had only looked at the letters. Since then, neuroscientists have established a positive link between learning to write by hand and learning to read.
Penmanship contributes to students’ literacy, reading comprehension, recall, critical thinking, conceptual development and creativity. Writing by hand is a powerful learning tool that has links to self-esteem, creative expression, critical thinking and improved academic performance. It is a complex cognitive process that involves neuro-sensory experiences and fine motor skills.
Strategies to support implementation at school include teacher modelling of best practice penmanship, monitoring of student writing across subjects, selection and application of a standard pattern across Infant 1 to Standard 5 and scheduling penmanship on the timetable.
The Ministry of Education has implemented several programmes to enhance students’ receptivity and performance in its thrust to improve numeracy and literacy. This includes the Laventille/Morvant Initiative. The Curriculum Division has tested students across 20 primary and 5 secondary schools assessing their literacy and numeracy level to inform Curriculum Development moving forward.
The Ministry of Education continues to work assiduously to ensure quality, equity and inclusion in education. Though we live in an age dominated by keyboarding and touch screens, the contribution of writing by hand in a child’s development cannot be underestimated.