The big international surveys of the last decades have left the impression that educational reforms are above all about increasing the achievement level of students, and that all that counts are the accomplishments measurable in standardized large scale assessments. Many reforms currently define educational “standards” and “competences” as measurable “output” of instruction without giving sufficient support to teachers, headpersons and educational administrations concerning the required “input”. The contribution to this “input” is clearly the main interest of this project and its Curricula for RSP readers.
Unfortunately, the students we describe as reluctant, struggling and poor often remain outside the programs and curricula. There is no systematic continuing reading training in the context of content area instruction, beyond the first two class-levels. Therefore, adolescents struggling with reading do not find any support; their subject-specific learning potentials and interests cannot unfold because of comprehension problems. Consequently, their performance is poor. With these deficits, they are cut off from higher educational qualifications and correspondingly from the better jobs. There is a deplorable discrepancy in this area between the urgency of the problem and the absence of concepts. Society leaves a lot of educational potential unused.
We have asked: What are the components of good practice that teachers would use to support and develop readership skills with RSP readers?
A significant number of students read below grade level because they lack the ability to apply comprehension strategies in order to create meaning. This inability is exacerbated by a pattern of teaching in many secondary classrooms that circumvents the lack of students’ comprehension through an “assigning and telling” model of instruction: teachers assign outside reading, then lecture on the content the next day (Smith and Feathers, 1983; Thomas, 1993). As a result, students implicitly learn that the content of the reading assignments they failed to complete will be explained in class, lessening their need to utilize their nascent comprehension skills.
Traditional instruction in Partners countries is sequentially organized and centred on the teacher: Instruction starts with the determination of learning targets and achievement requirements by the teacher, which is based on external specifications (Curricula, educational standards). The choice of materials and methods, the realization of the lessons and the final performance tests all refer back to this definition of learning targets. The tests compare individual performance with previously defined requirements and leads to a ranking of the students (summative assessments). To organize instruction in this way is natural for schools and educational systems which have the primary goal of transmitting contents (learning of / curricula centred on contents) and which demand the mastery of these contents for granting success to the students (performance orientated systems).
In many cases, the usual instruction only transmits subject-specific contents (learning of / knowing what) and complies with externally defined aims and assessments. This no longer conforms to the state of the art. The surge of tests in the wake of PISA has even exacerbated the problem. To prove to a poor student how poor his performance is in comparison to others, at worst confirms his already problematic self-concept and gives him little chance to improve. An evidence-based instruction, on the contrary, should aim at transmitting competences for learning subject area contents and determining student-competences (learning for / knowing how).
There are three misconceptions the Project Curricula are trying to fight against:
1. Today’s children are increasingly expected to progress in reading and writing at a standard speed and through one methodology. Struggling readers are often diagnosed as dyslexic. The diagnosis should be ‘struggling reader’ (Suchodoletz, W. Von, 2003) and the focus should be on solving the problem.
2. ‘It’s too late to do anything about literacy problems after children finish primary school.’ Millions of children enter secondary school able to read, but not well enough to do well in school. With specialised support, these young people can develop good, even excellent literacy skills.
3. Among others, the Curricula documents addresses one of the most recent literacy achievement gaps that Europe struggles with. Besides the socio-economic gap, the gender gap and the digital gap, overcoming the gap between migrants and native-born students is of most urgency.
The vast majority of children and adults with poor literacy skills were born and raised in the country they live in, and speak its language of instruction as their mother tongue. Literacy has a growing migrant and multilingual dimension. It is estimated that by 2060, a third of the EU population will have at least one parent born outside the country they live in. Fully literate European migrants stand a much stronger chance of successfully adjusting to the culture and working conditions in destination countries or to embark on entrepreneurial ventures in new contexts.
Reflection on change in the national values concerning education, and national curricula in order to make them meet the RSP readers needs
National literature has a particular place in culture. Reading the national literature develops the relationship of children to the cultivated language, helps them express themselves in a refined way and develop the perception and use of symbolic meanings of the language. It is also important for them to connect with the home community, with its tradition, mentality, perceptions and values. It is an important condition for building a harmoniously balanced personality that can engage in the action of its community, but is equally capable of acting well in the broader cultural horizon.
We are aware of the fact that national value orientations are reflected in the national curricula and in the organization of educational systems. There is an obvious connection between strongly selective educational systems and a paramount canonical orientation of national curricula. On contrary, the enhancement of the students’ personality puted at the centre of the educational philosophy and largely or completely abandonement the orientation towards the canonical reading material within the traditional “high literature” would bring serious prospects for RSP readers. The selectivity of the respective instruction is a nearly inavitable result of curricula which adhere to traditional literature.
In order to create the basis for a steady increase in success with RSP readers, established by the EU Reference Educational Standard, this document highlights the urgent need to change thinking and awareness among parents, teachers, specialists dealing with this issue, educational psychologists and educational decision makers. All interested parties should agree that NLP readers' needs must be carefully identified and adequate support is provided (EA DSNE, 2006).
Bearing in mind the educational and cultural diversity in partners countries, Curricula with related Syllabus for each partner country are developed. During this process we recognized differences in educational contexts and relevant cultures and ensured practical value for all partner countries. Documents are available on the Project's website.
 ‘Low literacy is a problem imported by migrants, not for those born and bred in European countries.’ (HLGEL, 2012)