Teachers call for simpler handwriting

It has long been a painful rite of passage for German schoolchildren to learn die Schreibschrift, a fiddly form of joined-up handwriting all pupils are expected to have mastered by the time they leave primary school.

But many German teachers have had enough, insisting it is a waste of time to force children to learn this type of cursive script when they have already learned to print letters at kindergarten. Many argue the joined-up handwriting is often illegible.

The country’s national primary schoolteachers’ union has started a campaign to abolish compulsory teaching of Schreibschrift. “It’s completely unnecessary, a deadweight tradition,” according to the union’s deputy chairman, Ulrich Hecker.

New, easier alphabet
The state of Hamburg recently took the radical step of introducing a new, easier alphabet called die Grundschrift that can take children all the way from tracing their first letters as toddlers to full fluency in adulthood. It is an idea some German-language scholars consider culturally traitorous.

“Writing is a cultural technique used to put down thoughts quickly. Joined-up handwriting trains fine motor skills and develops [a sense for] aesthetics. An apparently easier script also simplifies thoughts. I would mourn the loss of a piece of our writing culture,” said Hans Kaufmann, regional head of the Society for German Language in Hamburg.
Josef Kraus, president of the Deutscher Lehrerverband, the teaching union that represents 100 000 secondary school teachers, said that Grundschrift would be detrimental to both teachers and children.

“The legibility will not improve, but rather noticeably worsen because each pupil will join up the letters however they fancy. The speed of writing will also decrease,” he said.

When they start school most German children begin by getting to grips with holding a pencil and then printing individual letters. By the beginning of the second they are introduced to the cursive script.

“It means they have to learn two scripts, one after another, which wastes time and interrupts the learning process,” said Hecker. “With Grundschrift they start with one script and stick with it. They are always going to develop their own handwriting, anyway.”

Grundschrift gives schools more time to help and support their children,” said Hans Brügelmann, a professor of primary education and didactics at the University of Siegen.

It does not, he said, signal “the downfall of the civilised world” but gives children the tools they need to develop a “legible, fluent script” of their own. - Guardian News & Media 2011



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