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Reflections from key Early Grade Reading Research Indaba participants

The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) has pledged its support towards ensuring that the Basic Education Sector attains its goal of improving reading proficiency amongst FP learners. Dr Thabo Mabogoane, Deputy Director-General from the DPME highlighted: “The research has critically responded to the State of the Nation (SONA) commitment in relation to improving reading comprehension amongst learners in the FP. I commend the DBE for initiating the project as it will help the sector to understand what works in teaching reading. For a long time, we have been minimising the importance of African Indigenous Languages, underestimating their role in setting the baseline for learning in English First Additional Language (EFAL). In fact, a home language is an initial medium through which learners learn concepts in the content subjects such as Mathematics and Physical Sciences.  We therefore need to ensure that there is high level of commitment in this project to broaden the scope to cover all nine provinces across all home languages. The home language benchmarking is also essential in the sense that it will assist us to gauge the standard for reading and writing at the appropriate grade. By doing so, we will be able to identify gaps that require urgent remedial action”.

Senior Education Specialist for Professional Educator Development Services from the North- West Province, Ms Patricia Sechogela, views the project as a turning point for elevating African Indigenous Languages in schools. “For quite some time, our focus has been on empowering teachers on teaching EFAL, neglecting home languages. The research therefore will guide our teacher recruitment processes to ensure that the appointed teachers have acquired requisite skills to teach home languages. What came out clearly in this research is that parents are still far behind in terms of establishing reading sessions with their children at home. Therefore, part of the project design was to encourage learners to take readers and reading cards home to read to their parents for further supervision and monitoring,” explained Ms Sechogela. 

Dr Mark Chetty, Director for National Assessment, stated that the Indaba represented a critical collective of vested stakeholders with a genuine interest in solving the reading crisis in early learning. “Well done to the organisers for generating important conversations on potential solutions on improving reading for meaning through longitudinal research. Improving reading in the early grades has proven to be a complex matter and current constraints are multifaceted, but the EGRS Indaba has advanced important debates on language policy, the use of reading coaches, resources for African Languages, and effective pedagogical support for improving reading. The Indaba is timely as the Department looks to strengthen and package curriculum and assessment support to teachers through the learning recovery plan and assessment reform in GET. Findings from EGRS are valuable for informing provincial reading interventions. We must, however, be cautious not to overassess or overmeasure and add to the administrative burden of teachers. The greater focus must be on the empowerment of teachers to assist learners become better readers. The PIRLS results expected at the end of 2022 will further indicate system progress on reading levels”.

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