October 9, 2008 / 2:19 AM / in 9 years

Aussie university students given high-school English

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An Australian university plans to teach its first-year students English grammar and punctuation after discovering the majority are unable to even identify a noun.

The program at Monash University, which has campuses around the city of Melbourne, aims to cover material that should have been taught at high school, said English language lecturer Baden Eunson, who is also convener of the new course.

"We are not speaking about overseas students from non-English speaking backgrounds here," Eunson told Reuters.

"It's very obvious when students submit hand written essays they don't know how to use apostrophes or other punctuation."

Eunson said the majority of students entering university are incapable of identifying parts of speech.

However, he did not put any blame on the students, which he believed were victims of an education system that had "collapsed."

"There has been a weakness in teaching English grammar for a long time in Australia. This is no fault of the teachers who have also come through this system," he said.

"Only about 20 percent of English teachers understand basic grammar," he added.

Australia's center-left government, elected last year in part on a promise of an "education revolution" in schools, has vowed to lift accountability and standards, requiring government-controlled schools to conduct literacy tests against a new national curriculum standard.

The first test results earlier this month showed one in 10 students failed to meet minimum national literacy standards.

While Australia performs well against international comparisons, state and federal authorities are developing literacy and numeracy curriculum standards that every child must reach by the end of high school.

(Additional reporting by Rob Taylor)

Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy

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