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Establishing reading benchmarks and norms for African languages

The DBE is in the process of developing reading benchmarks for African languages. To this end, the Department has recently launched two reports, and is in the process of developing reading and writing norms and standards for African languages.

The first report titled “Setting Reading Benchmarks in South Africa” presents a data-driven approach to reading benchmarks with guidance on the data required, skills to be benchmarked and other technical guidance. This report provides a synthesis on reading benchmarks in SA in terms of their existence or need by language group or specific language. It also provides a rationale for why benchmarks are important, whilst identifying skills that may be benchmarked, based on the data-driven approach in consultation with experts.  In addition, it provides benchmarking methodology details by discussing the most prevalent data-driven methods to benchmarking, acknowledging statistical methodologies used nationally and internationally, as well as limitations. It also proposes the most appropriate statistical methods with clear discussion on why these differences matter. The second report which is titled, “Benchmarking early grade reading skills in Nguni languages” establishes thresholds and benchmarks for foundational early grade reading skills that are necessary to read for meaning in Nguni languages in the South African context. It analyses various reading studies and reading benchmarks and also proposes benchmarks for three out of the four Nguni languages in the Foundation Phase.

Without established reading norms, it is difficult for the education system to identify learners at risk of reading failure, especially in the early years where reading skills are taught. It is also difficult to set clearly articulated, realistic milestones for teachers to monitor appropriate reading attainment at each grade. Reading has been identified as a national education priority for reading with understanding for the development of language proficiency.

The reports have been consulted on and adopted in the sector as resources:

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