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Study Shows Grade 6 Learners Improve Literacy Skills, but Maths Remains a Challenge

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Study Shows Grade 6 Learners Improve Literacy Skills, but Maths Remains a Challenge

by Cape Gateway
22 Apr 2008
The Cape Gateway
The Cape Gateway

Statement by Western Cape Education MEC Cameron Dugmore: Grade 6 learners in the Western Cape are making steady progress in improving their literacy skills, but still struggle with mathematics. This is the key finding of the latest study by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

In October and November 2007, the WCED assessed the literacy and numeracy skills of 71,874 Grade 6 learners from 1,034 schools in the province.

The percentage of learners achieving more than 50% for literacy across the Western Cape has increased steadily over the past four years from 35% in 2003 to 42.1% in 2005 and 44.8% in 2007. This reflects an increase of 9.8% since 2003.

While the results reflect consistent progress in literacy, we still have a long way to go to ensure that our learners meet the assessment standards of the national curriculum for both literacy and numeracy.

Some of the key facts and findings are as follows:

* A total of 207 schools in all five quintiles improved results in both numeracy and literacy. The poorest schools are in Quintile 1 and least poor schools in Quintile 5
* Literacy score was 35% in 2003; and 44.8% in 2007, an increase of 9.8%
* Numeracy increased from 15.6% in 2003 to 17.2% in 2005, and then a decline to 14% in 2007
* Eight of 16 schools who opted to write assessment in chosen Language (isiXhosa), achieved almost four times higher than their scores for 2005.

The aims of the studies are to monitor the performance of Grade 3 and 6 learners in literacy and numeracy at the end of the Foundation and Intermediate phases, and to inform the WCED's literacy and numeracy intervention strategies.

While aware of the work that remains to be done, we are inspired by the significant number of schools in all poverty quintiles that have improved their results in both literacy and numeracy.

While circumstances differ from school to school, the common thread is that of people engaging with this issue - teachers, principals, officials, parents and local communities - to make a difference.

For example, Prins Albert Primary School (Quintile 2 school in Central Karoo) where the number of Grade 6 who achieved 50% or more in numeracy improved from 0% in 2005 to 55.6% in 2007, and in literacy from 17.5% to 88.9%.

Clearly, things have happened in this school and we will learn from what they have done, along with others, as we develop examples of best practice.

The latest study continue to reflect the huge differences between learners from different communities and the huge task confronting us as we seek to provide access to quality education for all in the province.

We are very pleased with the results of the primary schools that are participating in the WCED's Language Transformation programme, where literacy results improved dramatically. Eight of the 16 pilot schools elected to write the test in isiXhosa. These schools are attempting to ensure that mother-tongue tuition is provided from to Grade 1 to Grade 6.

The results in general show that we have to continue focusing on schools in our poorest communities. We have to build on interventions that work, while exploring new ideas wherever possible.

The WCED's Deputy Director-General: Curriculum Development, Brian Schreuder will lead road shows in every district over the next two months to discuss relevant results with schools and district officials, and with local communities in the evenings.

- The WCED has a team of 100 specialists who are engaging with every school needing special support, with a special focus on teacher development and school management.

- Special focus areas will include best teaching practice and teachers' knowledge of assessment standards. A detailed programme of teacher development is being put in place based on the qualifications of our teachers in the foundation phase. This will be in addition to current teacher development programmes.

- We will explore every opportunity to improving resourcing at schools, for example, by providing school libraries through the Quality Improvement, Development, Support and Upliftment Programme (Qids-UP).

- We have allocated 364 additional teaching posts to the Foundation Phase in poor schools this year to reduce class sizes. We have also established 510 teaching assistant posts to support Foundation Phase teachers in poor schools.

- We will continue to encourage schools to set targets and implement action plans to improve performance, and will consider awards for achievement in literacy and numeracy. Although our Annual Performance Plan targets an overall yearly increase of 5% in numeracy and literacy, we are insisting that any school with less than a 20% pass rate, must set and achieve a minimum yearly increase of 10% in the overall pass rate.

- Our Curriculum Directorate will provide work schedules and pace setters, including daily routines for numeracy in line with our national Minister's Foundations for Learning Campaign, which has been published in the Government Gazette. Work has begun on a 37-week numeracy learning programme, which will guide teachers on a weekly basis in the classroom.

- We will encourage learner support teachers to collaborate with teachers in mainstream schools, so that teachers in mainstream schools can learn from strategies used to teach learners with special education needs (LSEN).

- We will contine our family learning campaign to encourage family learning (parents and care givers) to practice literacy and numeracy skills with their children at home every day.

- The WCED is establishing 49 circuit teams to provide in-depth support to schools, where this is needed the most. This support will include teacher development and support for school leadership and management, especially at primary schools.

Literacy and numeracy provide the bedrock for all learning, and therefore will remain the WCED's number one priority. While there are no quick fixes, we are proceeding with a great sense of urgency to build this foundation, focusing mainly on schools in our poorest communities.
Annexure: Statistical Sample


Gert Witbooi
Media Liaison Officer
Office of the MEC for Education
Western Cape
Tel: 021 467 2523
Cell: 082 550 3938Fax: 021 425 5689
Visit our website:
The Western Cape - A Home for All
INtshona Koloni - iKhaya loMntu wonke
Die Wes-Kaap - 'n Tuiste vir Almal

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