Laying Firm Foundations: Getting Reading Right

Report to the PSPPD. University of Stellenbosch, 2016

52 Pages Posted: 28 May 2017

See all articles by Nicholas Spaull

Nicholas Spaull

Stellenbosch University

Servaas van der Berg

Stellenbosch University

Gabrielle Wills

Stellenbosch University

Martin Gustafsson

Stellenbosch University

Janeli Kotzé

Stellenbosch University

Date Written: May 24, 2016

Abstract

The central focus of this research project was the investigation of causes of weak South African student performance in literacy and numeracy in the Foundation Phase (Grades 1–3). Many South African children complete these grades without being able to read properly in their home-language, with little understanding of the language in which they will be taught from Grade 4 (English), and with an inability to move from basic counting to true calculation using the four operations. Less than half of all students learn to read for meaning in this critical period. These weak foundations provided in Grades 1–3 constitute one of the major factors leading to poor learning outcomes in later grades.

This research project has taken a system view to analyse how these problems interact to create the low level equilibrium South African education finds itself in. This research has been undertaken through the lens of the ‘instructional core’, evaluating what happens in Foundation Phase classrooms and how this influences learning. The departure point is the view that any attempt to raise the quality of education in South Africa must focus on the ‘instructional core’ in Foundation Phase classrooms, i.e. “actual interactions between teachers, students, and content in the classroom” (City et al., 2009). All other factors are important only to the extent that they impact on these three components.

Keywords: Education, reading, inequality, poverty, development, South Africa

JEL Classification: I21, I24

Suggested Citation

Spaull, Nicholass and Van der Berg, Servaas and Wills, Gabrielle and Gustafsson, Martin A. and Kotzé, Janeli, Laying Firm Foundations: Getting Reading Right (May 24, 2016). Report to the PSPPD. University of Stellenbosch, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2973191

Nicholass Spaull

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

Servaas Van der Berg (Contact Author)

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

Gabrielle Wills

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

Martin A. Gustafsson

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

Janeli Kotzé

Stellenbosch University ( email )

Private Bag X1
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7602
South Africa

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