Yesterday’s 3 R’s will soon be GONE, but one R will STILL remain


3r(Photo credit:

It still surprises me that educationists are still discussing the importance of the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic). Firstly, it isn’t and has never been the ‘3 R’s’, so why this even became a notion in the first place is just annoying. It is one R, one W and one A….for heavens sake!

The second point of it is that it does sound like something from a curriculum from the 1950s, not any later than that. What happened in education in the 60s, 70s, and even 2000s? There were many changes, new philosophies, new ideas…. Even today, there are so many different schools of thought on educational guidelines, I’m surprised that this notion is still tossed around.

At the same time, I do realise that these skills of reading, writing and mathematics are of course important. They are the three-point prong on which all learning sits. However with the growth of technology and AI taking over a far bigger role than ever before in our life, the real truth is that Arithmetic will be (and clearly already is) fundamentally done by a calculator, Writing will eventually be taken over by a computers …(even on this word programme there is a ‘dictation’ feature, so no need to learn how to spell or form sentences, it will do it all for you), but Reading….. will be something that no one will ever take from you.

Reading comprehension is the only single skill left of the 3R’s that will survive and need to survive.  Comprehension and also believing in what you read will become the one pivotal point that all learning comes from. Comprehension within itself is the human condition of understanding. Humans will still need to understand, as it is a fundamental principle of growth, in whatever form that comes. The need to learn to read will be the biggest single role of the early years teacher.

As with any changes we see today, the difference is never sudden, it is always gradual until you ‘suddenly’ realize it. The change in arithmetic is clear for most in my generation and younger, but the writing one is coming, though we don’t see a perfect machine driven text yet, it soon will be. But Reading truly believes in one core skill….fundamentally understanding.

So, when you hear people talk about the future of the 3R’s, take a moment to consider that in fact in the very near future, it may drop to only be a one R…. the rest will be relegated to the world of traditional arts and competitive fun.

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