Otago pupils are lacking in communication skills because
schools are struggling to teach speech to a necessary
standard, New Zealand's Speech Communications Association
SCA Otago branch president Cheryl La Hood said language was
the cornerstone of literacy and educational success, and
teachers did not have sufficient tools to teach oral language
The issue was having a major impact on pupils, and was
particularly prevalent in boys around Otago, she said.
''This is a gross generalisation, but boys' spoken skills
tend to lag behind girls.
''Their motor skills are ahead of girls a little bit, but
their vocal skills are a little behind.''
Honorary SCA member and co-founder of the B-Cool programme
for boys Jon Winder said the gap in speech education in boys
resulted in their behaviour worsening over time if they were
not taught to communicate their emotions effectively.
''They suppress their emotions and then act out more than
usual, creating a high social cost.''
SCA member Del Costello said schools could interpret oral
language requirements as preparing PowerPoint presentations,
learning the content and presenting to the class, with a
minimal amount of speech and confidence skills gained.
However, he believed speech and oral language involved more
than presenting, and schools were missing the mark in
teaching effective communication.
''It is important that youth get the confidence and skills
they need to succeed in life and communicate effectively.
''Without this, we will always struggle to lift literacy
rates in New Zealand.''
Ms La Hood agreed, but was sympathetic to the plight of
''Schools are very busy. There are a lot of demands on their
time, so they can't cover all of the skills involved in oral
She said the New Zealand English curriculum contained three
strands of communication - written language, spoken language
and visual language.
Because of the emphasis on oral language in the modern world,
she said spoken language had been stressed by making it an
equal strand with the other two, and schools had come a long
way and were providing for it through teaching prepared
speech at every level.
However, there was far more to oral communication than
researching and delivering a prepared speech, she said.
Speech teachers in New Zealand were filling the void by
providing tuition in all areas of spoken language, including
extempore speech, impromptu speech, presentation reading, and
She said pupils were encouraged to use less teenage jargon
and express themselves effectively by increasing their
vocabulary and the accuracy of their pronunciation.
''Our young people are very savvy and they are able to
represent themselves at a very high level when they have
SCA president and Christchurch Polytechnic Broadcasting
School radio and television tutor Dianne Jones said the issue
had affected generations of pupils to the point where
professionals in the corporate world were now having speech
and confidence coaching to succeed in everyday tasks, such as
presentations, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations.
The Speech Communications Association will offer guidelines
to teachers on speech education at its Finding Your Voice
conference this weekend at King's School, in Auckland.