Uni students have to be taught basic English

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24428680-421,00.html

I love the picture that news.com.au has with this story. :)
Personally, though, I find that overuse of apostrophes is more common than under-use of them.

No, before somebody brings it up, it’s not exclusively an issue of international students with woefully inadequate standards of functional English, (although that is a legitimate concern) it’s people educated in Australian schools, educated in English, who get through high school with appalling skills of spelling, grammar and punctuation that are the alarming issue here.

It seems students in “English class” in high schools these days spend more time being asked to describe the character’s emotions in some book, and less time with spelling, grammar and punctuation.

MONASH University will teach its first-year students grammar and punctuation after discovering that most arrive without basic English skills.

Baden Eunson, lecturer at the university’s School of English, Communications and Performance Studies, and convenor of the new course, said about 90 per cent of his first-year students could not identify a noun.

“If you ask them to identify adjectives and other parts of a sentence, only about 1 per cent can manage,” he said, according to The Australian.

“It is not really a surprise as only about 20 per cent of English teachers understand basic grammar.”

Mr Eunson described his remedial program as a US-style “freshman composition course, mainly covering material that should have been covered in school but wasn’t”.

He pointed to a 2003 study by the Economic Society of Australia which found school leavers “are functionally illiterate because standards in Australian high schools have collapsed”.

Mr Eunson said students’ inadequacies emerged when they were asked to hand-write answers to test questions and without the aid of spell-checkers.

“I think we’ll see more and more of these university-level courses springing up to do the schools’ work for them,” he said.

His comments come after Monash colleague Caron Dann said the majority of her 500 students in communication were strangers to English grammar.

“Marking essays, I discovered the majority had no idea how to use apostrophes, or any other punctuation for that matter; that random spelling was in and sentence construction out.

About half thought plurals were formed by adding an apostrophe-s, as in apple’s and banana’s.

“Marking the final exam, it emerged that few could write neatly: From bold childlike printing to spidery scribblings in upper case, it is obvious that handwriting is a dying art,” she said.

Swinburne University has said it will test the literacy skills of domestic and international students next year because of concern about standards.

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