One of the biggest developmental challenges facing South Africa is the high number of learners who do not learn to read for meaning in the early years of school. Reading is the foundational skill on which all others are built. Basic Education Deputy Minister, Mr Enver Surty, senior managers from the Department of Basic Education (DBE), partners and stakeholders signed a pledge of commitment towards the improvement of reading in South African schools during the release of the results of the Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS) on findings in the North West Province.
Deputy Minister Surty addressed the delegates on the importance of building an evidence-base for reading in South Africa. He made mention of the 55 million workbooks, which are distributed nationally to all public schools, as well as the DBE’s commitment to the provision of libraries and e-libraries: “The resources are there; our learners must be able to read, and to read with understanding. We welcome improvements in interventions in moving away from mediocrity towards academic excellence.”
Dr Mamiki Maboya, Deputy Director-General for the Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring Branch, provided background to the EGRS, phase 1, which has been taking place in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand and the ZENEX Foundation: “The study is about the introduction of interventions in the Foundation Phase as we understand the importance of reading to access knowledge and the curriculum as the core business of the sector.” The study evaluates three interventions aimed at improving early grade reading, namely a structured learning programme and centralised training; a structured learning programme and specialist on-site coaching; and a package designed to improve parental involvement and monitoring for children learning to read. The three interventions were implemented in the Grade 1 class of 2015 and at Grade 2 level during 2016.
Chief Director for Strategic Planning, Research and Co-ordination, Ms Carol Nuga-Deliwe, said that it was crucial to use credible evidence in policy and planning to improve the impact of Home Language Literacy in African languages, and in rural areas in particular.
Dr Stephen Taylor, Director for Research, Co-ordination, Monitoring and Evaluation, presented the main research findings of the EGRS in the North West Province to a capitated audience. The study took place in a total of 230 schools in the Ngaka Modiri Molema and the Dr Kenneth Kaunda districts in North West Province in Quintile 1 to 3 schools, with Setswana as the Language of Learning and Teaching in the Foundation Phase.
Of the three interventions involving scripted lesson plans, reading materials and on-site coaching are showing the clearest evidence of a substantial positive impact after two years of intervention.The gains of the on-site coaching intervention are estimated at approximately a third of a year of learning ahead of the intervention group. The effective coaching intervention is helping to close the gender gap with boys catching up with girls who are substantially ahead of them in terms of Grade 2 literacy. The impact of the coaching intervention is largest for learners in the middle and upper part of the achievement distribution. For all three interventions, the observed impacts are larger in urban township settings.
Some of the great success the project has managed to achieve include teachers modelling good literacy practices, learners interacting with texts individually; a focus on reading and writing extended texts; the use of books including textbooks, workbooks and readers; feedback to learners; and greater curriculum coverage. This study presents the most empirical evidence to date on the substantial effect of a structured pedagogical programme, when supported by high quality on-site coaching.
The project management team will be hosting a feedback session with all the participating school principals during September and October 2017. Phase 2 of the EGRS will be taking place in the Mpumalanga Province with the assistance of US Aid.
Click on the below link to view additional information regarding the EGRS: http://www.education.gov.za/Programmes/egrs.aspx.