Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 05 Apr 2007

Shouldn’t children be taught to type and write at the same time? They need typing more than writing.

Hillary's Advice

Yes, they should. You only need to watch primary school children painfully hunting-and-pecking over keyboards to see the need. But to teach typing at the same time as writing would take one of those momentous shifts in consciousness akin, say, to us as a society recognising that the only way to balance children and work is not to shove children in childcare from dawn to dusk, but for job structures to change fundamentally.

Writing has always been equated with learning, and teaching good handwriting is seen as one of the bedrocks of education. Typing, on the other hand, is viewed as an inferior technical skill, which anyone can quickly get half a grasp of provided they know their letters.

There are other problems, too. The school timetable is crowded, infant teachers often can’t type themselves, there aren’t enough keyboards, and getting to be a good touch typist takes hours of tedious practice.

Schools that try and shoehorn it into the curriculum find that, after a flying start, the interest of many pupils drops off sharply -- although a minority take to it like ducks to water, and love marching through the sequential typing tests.

Yet most people now spend many more hours typing than writing, and repetitive strain injury is a growing problem. And there are some very good teach-yourself-to-type programmes around, so maybe primary schools should think harder about how to introduce these into the classroom, even if they decide to do it in the later years, once pupils have learned how to write.