The improvement of early grade reading has been an area of attention this week, as education experts, practitioners and policy makers participated in the two-day Early Grade Reading Research Indaba held at Kievits Kroon in Pretoria.
The Indaba was hosted by the DBE’s Research Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate, to present the findings from the Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS). The EGRS has run interventions across approximately 400 schools across Mpumalanga and North-West Provinces since 2015, and has carefully measured the impacts of various interventions on reading outcomes. The study has shown that providing teachers with lesson plans aligned to the curriculum, additional reading materials in the home language and in-person professional support can lead to significant gains in reading outcomes of children. In contrast, interventions to increase parent support and to provide teachers with virtual coaching did not have a significant effect on reading outcomes.
According to Dr Stephen Taylor, Director for the Research Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate at the DBE, “Not everything impacts on learning, but early reading interventions with a solid theory of change can have long-term impacts on learning. The reading challenge comes down to improving classroom teaching in FP Home Language at scale,” he said. “The biggest positive impacts on reading were achieved when we intervened within the classroom focusing on Home Language teaching. The pandemic showed us that the biggest negative impacts on learning happened when classroom practice was disrupted.” Dr Taylor further added that research was set to continue and will be broadened to cover various aspects in the Basic Education Sector. Research experts also weighed-in on the aspect of parental involvement in children’s education. They pointed out that parents were often not empowered to promote reading amongst children whilst at home and appealed to the Basic Education Sector to consider developing reading tools dedicated to parents, specifically in the area of reading promotion.