Various literacy crises have also been staged in Australia, beginning in the 1970s. The aim of the manufactured crises have been “to undermine the legitimacy of public belief in state schooling and to enable governments to implement their desired reforms including “a return to a ‘basics’ of curriculum benchmarks and standardised tests”.
One such crisis occurred in 1996-7 when media reports and politicians discussed literacy in terms of “crisis”, “deficit”, “national disgrace”, “shame”, “deception” and other derogatory and emotional terms. The Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training, David Kemp, released the results of a National English Literacy Survey on the television program 60 Minutes on which he described the “scandalous” state of literacy in schools that was being hidden from parents.
In reality literacy in Australia as in many other nations, is linked to issues such as cultural diversity and poverty and tends to be most pronounced amongst recent migrants of non-English speaking backgrounds. Andrew Welch in his 1997 book on Australian education noted that there was little evidence of a literacy crisis and in fact most academic surveys of literacy showed either improvement over time or no significant change, despite increasing numbers of non-English speakers in the population, which he noted, was an impressive achievement.
The most recent effort to characterise schools as delivering falling literacy and numeracy standards came in 2006 when the federal government pushed for a national curriculum. This was despite the fact that Australian students had scored near the top of international tests in science, maths and reading. In the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) Australian students were second only to Finnish students in literacy.
If you have any examples or updates you would like to contribute please email them to me and I will add them here. Please give references for where you sourced the information.