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Irish kids' literacy hit by txts

SMS 'a significant threat to writing standards'

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The fatal attraction between Irish young 'uns and mobile phones poses "a significant threat to writing standards in English", according to the chief examiner of Eire's Department of Education.

The problem was highlighted in a review of standards in last year's Junior Cert, The Irish Times reports. The anonymous examiner expressed concern that "text messaging, with its use of phonetic spelling and little or no punctuation seems to pose a threat to traditional conventions in writing".

The examiner elaborated that kids were "choosing to answer sparingly, even minimally, rather than seeing questions as invitations to explore the territory they had studied and to express the breadth and depth of their learning and understanding".

Regarding a peruse of higher-level or honours papers, he said "the frequency of errors of grammar, punctuation, idiomatic usage, and appropriateness of register was of concern".

The examiner concluded: "The emergence of the mobile phone and the rise of text messaging as a popular means of communication would appear to have impacted on standards of writing as evidenced in the responses of candidates. Expertise in text messaging and email in particular would appear to have affected spelling and punctuation."

It's not all linguistic doom and gloom, however. The Irish Times notes that research indicates "literacy standards among Irish 15-year-olds compares [sic] well with those across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)", and that "Irish teenagers were among the top three performers in an international league table on literacy standards compiled by the organisation four years ago". ®

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