Keyboards multiply, but educators still swear by cursive

by Brett Henebery03 Feb 2015

It has helped human communication evolve since 3200BC, but Finnish schools will soon be phasing out handwriting altogether. 

Some argue that handwriting has become outdated and has no relevance in a digital world in which almost all communication is typed.

It surely begs the question: If students type their schoolwork and do their exams online, is handwriting still relevant?

Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) president, Dennis Yarrington says that cursive handwriting still has a very important place alongside keyboards and iPads in classrooms.

“This is not a 'one is better than the other' matter,” Yarrington told The Educator.

“In today's world and in today's classroom children need to be exposed to both handwriting and keyboard skills.

“Primary students will grapple with, respond to and use both handwriting and digital type in and beyond the classroom, and so, both are important and valuable skills to be developed and attained.”

Yarrington added that research has shown that handwriting not only helps us retain information better than typing it on to a screen, but is also a personal experience that students should learn to enjoy.

“From the first days of school, young children learn about letters, their shape and sound by the tactile action of writing them onto paper," Yarrington explained.

“Combining letters to write words then moving on to writing passages of prose, poetry, descriptions and stories is a very personal experience."

According to Finland’s Savon Sanomat newspaper, cursive handwriting will no longer be a compulsory lesson in classrooms as of 2016.

Finland's National Board of Education spokeswoman, Minna Harmanen, says keyboard skills are an "important national competence" which every child should learn.

The Scandinavian country’s controversial move comes during a time when laptops and tablets continue to multiply in classrooms around the world.

Dennis Yarrington said that handwriting is in the curriculum for a reason and should not be swept aside.

“We would not like to see handwriting disappear from our classrooms; handwriting is clearly in the Australian Curriculum - a position supported by APPA.”

Yarrington concludes, somewhat candidly: 

“…and who would prefer to receive a digital card, birthday greeting or love letter via a screen over personalised script on handmade embossed paper?”
 
 

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