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Funda Uphumelele National Survey Project




Reading is the fundamental basis upon which education is built. Therefore, it is important to assess and track learners’ ability to read with reference to the standards of vocabulary and fluency as laid out in Foundation Phase Grade curriculums. While various reading assessment projects have been implemented, none are as extensive and rigorous as the Funda Uphumelele National Survey (FUNS). This Project sets out to understand and address the gaps in learners’ reading performance in Grade 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 across all languages: nine African languages, Afrikaans, English First Additional Language (EFAL) and English Home Language (HL).


Together with the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) Research, Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate, the Zenex Foundation is working on this DBE-led initiative which runs from January 2024 to May 2026. The ultimate aim of this survey is to gather information regarding the degree to which learners are using vocabulary and reading effectively, i.e., tracking benchmarks throughout the Foundation Phase. This Project is divided into five phases, namely:

  1. Instrument development by linguists and Foundation Phase specialists.
  2. Piloting and revision following feedback on instruments and fieldwork (including data collection in 715 schools, involving approximately 35,750 learners and covering all 11 languages – 60–85 schools per language).
  3. Analysis and report writing.
  4. Dissemination and use with outreach to various stakeholders (including schools, subject advisors, district officials, donors, NGOs and researchers).
  5. Curriculum and systems strengthening by:

– Updating the over-used Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) which is no longer able to reliably assess learners’ reading levels.

– Upgrading the Teacher Toolkit.

– Training all Foundation Phase subject advisors to ensure that EGRA is used effectively and that teachers are able to remediate children’s learning once they assess the nature of the problems experienced.


This Project provides accurate, nuanced and detailed information on learners’ reading scores, which is strategically important if effective remediation solutions are to be achieved. An official national assessment of reading performance throughout the country is a key step that will become possible through the Project’s national reach and its inclusion of the above-mentioned five Foundation Phase grades. The resulting insights will pave the way to remediate and improve reading outcomes, enabling learners to develop and expand their understanding of their various subject content and achieve better results in their schooling careers going forward.


The Project will yield the following outcomes:

  • An accurate understanding of existing learner performance at provincial and national levels, drawn from a series of reports focusing on:

– Overall national averages and analysis with reference to each language.

– Province-specific reports inclusive of an assessment of the relevant languages.

– A learning brief targeted at teachers in each language.

  • Parental involvement in supporting their children to read, is an outcome of the public advocacy campaign.
  • Rooting of improvements through building curricula and systems.


The Funda Uphumelele National Survey Project represents an important step in furthering the implementation of an updated reading benchmark system for the Foundation Phase and is ultimately linked to Zenex’s strategy in addressing learning backlogs. This survey will provide an important baseline that can inform projects addressing children who are underperforming and struggling with what is required of them linguistically in terms of reading. This survey will enable more accurate reflection on national and provincial performance over time and it is hoped that it will become the basis for the official national assessment of reading performance in the country.

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