Grade 1 learner biscuits

School learners in South Africa are currently enjoying their June-July holidays.
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81% of Grade 4 pupils in SA can’t read for meaning – Report

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) reveals that 81% of South African pupils in grade 4 can’t read for understanding.

Grade 1 learner biscuits

School learners in South Africa are currently enjoying their June-July holidays.
Image via Twitter @News24

The latest report on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) shows that roughly eight out of 10 Grade 4 pupils in South Africa can’t read for meaning.

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This means roughly only 19% of Grade 4 pupils in South Africa can read for meaning, while 81% need help locating and retrieving explicitly stated information in the simple and easy text.

According Sunday World, the report was released by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in Pretoria on Tuesday,16 May as the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement released the international report and results.

Motshekga told the delegates gathered for the event that she was not expecting the 2021 results to be positive “given the negative and dire consequences of Covid-19 as the education system’s response to the pandemic was “complex and challenging”.

“Even before the pandemic, the education system faced significant historical challenges, such as poverty, inequality, and inadequate infrastructure.” 

“These extended periods of lost instructional time were particularly critical for children in the early grades and those attending pre-school, as they coincide with a crucial stage of their developmental journey.”

News24 reports that all 11 official languages were used in the assessment and the study is an assessment of reading achievement and is conducted every five years in around 40 countries.

South Africa has participated in four PIRLS assessments since 2006 and the current figures show a regression of reading literacy levels among Grade 4 pupils to levels last seen in 2011.

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News24 adds that the latest study involved assessing over 400 000 pupils in 57 countries and South Africa, 12 426 Grade 4 pupils were assessed in one of the 11 official languages, while 9 317 Grade 6 pupils were assessed in English or Afrikaans.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in 2019 that all 10-year-old children should be able to read for meaning by 2030.

Former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka established the Reading Panel in January 2022 to facilitate the achievement of Ramaphosa’s goal.

“For South Africa, the Pirls 2021 study reveals very low-performance levels on learners’ ability to read for meaning as they turn 10” reveals the report.

“Singapore was the highest-performing country. All African countries performed below the low international benchmark of 400 points. South Africa, at 288 score points, performed significantly below the Pirls centre point of 500,” shows the report.

“The grade 6 Afrikaans learners obtained 456 points compared to English learners, who obtained 377 points. There was thus a 79-point difference between these two languages.”

Motshekga added: “South Africa is not the only country that was impacted negatively by Covid.”


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