The New Zealand Government's Failure to Recognise Dyslexic Secondary Students.

Essay by TaniwhaUniversity, Master'sA+, June 2006

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"The New Zealand Government's failure to recognise dyslexia as a Special Learning Disability (SLD) seriously disadvantages a large number of New Zealand secondary school students."


"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." - Wittgenstein.

Addressed generally in the Education Act (1989) and specifically in the respective curricula, the Ministry of Education makes no bones about the critical importance of literacy for all New Zealand students. "...all students will need to develop the ability and confidence to communicate competently in English, in both its spoken and written forms." (Ministry of Education, 1993, p.10).

And this focus has some urgency about it. New Zealand's status amongst the countries participating in international literacy studies such as IEA/PIRLS (2001) and OECD-PISA (2000-2003) has suffered a decline over recent years. And whilst concerned policy-makers and educators well-intentionally discuss current notions and concepts of literacy, re-appraising and suggesting interventions and approaches to tackle what seems to be a national literacy crisis (Easton, 1999), a glaring blind-spot persists.

Dyslexia. Often referred to as a middle-class syndrome, it is a common term, defined in the Oxford Dictionary (1995; pg.160) as "a condition causing difficulty in reading and spelling", and bandied about in general society in the company of ADD or autism as causes of individual educational underachievement. But it differs in one crucial regard. The New Zealand Government recognizes ADD and autism as SLD - it does not recognise dyslexia. Thus they limit access to resources, funding, and appropriate teaching practices to students with this challenging condition.

Accidental oversight?

History says no.

Big mistake?

Research says yes.

Impossible task?

Optimism and responsibility say absolutely not.


"Prove dyslexia exists and we'll look at it." - Steve Maharey, Minister for Education.

I have referred to dyslexia in relation to SLD,