Pupils′ handwriting deficits alarm German teachers | News | DW | 09.04.2019
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Pupils' handwriting deficits alarm German teachers

Only four percent of German teachers believe their pupils' handwriting makes the grade. More than three-out-of-ten, boys mainly, are unable to write legibly. Teachers blamed digital-age neglect of hands-on skills.

Germany's VBE trade union said its survey, published on Tuesday, showed teachers alarmed about pupils' handwriting deficits. They called for more time in class to dedicate to fine-motor skills and help pupils develop legibility and fluidity in writing exercises.

Only 4 percent of the 2,046 teachers sampled nationwide were satisfied with their pupils' longhand, while 37 percent classified pupils at primary schools as having difficulty in writing fluidly and clearly — boys more so than girls.

At secondary school, the problem was similar: 43 percent had handwriting difficulties, according to the survey run in recent months by the Berlin-based VBE and the Schreibmotorik Institut (Writing Skills Institute ) in northern Bavaria.

Read more: pick up a pen and write a letter

On average, only four-out-of-10 pupils were able to write by hand for more than 30 minutes, uninhibited, without cramping, or becoming weary or illegible on paper.

Teachers sampled said their pupils often lacked fine haptic [finger] coordination and the ability to concentrate on text-based tasks. More than half of teachers blamed digitized media inroads into daily life.

Findings 'alarming'

Institute director Marianela Diaz Meyer described the findings as "alarming," pointing out that in terms of educational psychology, "[hand]writing makes you smart" – just like reading, spelling and grammar.

"Those who boost handwriting also foster the general educational success of children," said VBE chairman Udo Beckmann, who said writing must be better anchored in curricula and classroom routines.

"When children still have motor deficits because they don't get the necessary support at home, we reach the limits of what is possible [in the classroom]," Beckmann added.

Teacher members of the VBE, which is affiliated to Germany's ddb civil servants trade union federation, wanted advanced on-the-job courses to help pupils to overcome deficits, he said.

More time for basics in class

Two-thirds of teachers wanted more class time devoted to writing practice, the survey found. Nine-out-of-ten still regarded handwritten note-taking on paper as essential.

Computerized writing via keyboard was favored by only one fifth of primary teachers and 61 percent of secondary teachers.

The survey's authors said handwriting typically improved after children had handcrafted things, cooked, or painted pictures in class, because these honed their basic motor skills.

Centuries of complaint?

Such complaints were not new, said Swiss handwriting expert Sibylle Lichtsteiner of Luzern's University of Teacher Education, who said more studies were needed.

"In previous centuries, too, teachers complained about the handwriting capabilities of their pupils," Lichtsteiner noted.

Primary school expert Angelika Speck-Hamdan of Munich's Ludwig-Maximilian University said the teacher survey was important but more research was needed.

ipj/msh (dpa, KNA, AFP)

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