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Laying firm foundations: Getting reading right



This project focused on understanding the underlying causes of poor performance in Foundation Phase numeracy and literacy. The research methodology involved analysing the various large national datasets that are available.

The Zenex Foundation funded research undertaken by ReSEP with a focus on refining our understanding of the causes underlying poor learner performance in Foundation Phase (Grades 1- 3) literacy and numeracy. A cursory overview of the South African literature highlights the full range of problems that may explain poor learner performance relating to teaching and teacher quality, school management and accountability, language and socio-economic factors. However, even though we know about the plethora of factors effecting learner performance, we do not know enough about the ways in which these factors coalesce to promote or hinder performance.

The research, titled “Laying Firm Foundations: Getting Reading Right”,  integrates various factors to provide a comprehensive picture of the education challenge. The report highlights the centrality of ensuring that all children learn to read for meaning by the end of Grade 3. At the moment in South Africa, about 60% of children cannot read at even a basic level at the end of Grade 4. These children never fully engage with the curriculum and fall further and further behind the curriculum even as they are promoted into higher grades.

The research has culminated in 10 journal articles, 12 policy briefs, 1 monograph, 2 reports and 2 policy-engagement workshops. The research covered topics ranging from excessive class sizes and learning deficits to the salaries and qualifications of Early Childhood Practitioners. It included quantitative analyses, a literature review and a special issue of the South African Journal of Childhood Education. The researchers have created a “Roadmap for Action” with detailed suggestions and recommendations for how the Department of Basic Education can ensure that all children learn to read.

For the full report and related publications, please visit http://resep.sun.ac.za/


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