Despite efforts to implement stimulus packages in schools across South Africa, researchers found there was a year-long loss in learning when it came to reading, said Wednesday Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
Motshega was addressing a mini-plenary of the National Assembly to provide an update on the department’s progress as well as priorities for the budget vote for the coming year.
Motshekga said he asked researchers in the department to analyze the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the basic education system.
“Researchers agree that at the heart of our sector is learning and that at the heart of improving learning is improving reading in the early grades. They report that before Covid-19, we had seen progress in children’s reading skills.
“According to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), Grade 4 reading improved significantly between 2006 and 2016.
However, according to Professor Martin Gustafssohn, research suggests that by the end of 2021 the average 4th grader could read as well as the average 3rd grader before the pandemic.
“So there was a loss of a year of learning. In other words, we have gone back a few years in terms of PIRLS progress. These losses are similar to what has been seen around the world,” she said.
Motshekga said that given these losses, and despite the department’s best efforts in terms of a school recovery plan, the PIRLS 2021 results are not expected to show any improvements when released later this year. .
“If we see improvements, we would be happy about it, but we have to be realistic. Therefore, international assessment studies, such as PIRLS, but also the TIMSS study (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), have played a vital role in monitoring progress in the past and will help us in the years to come to understand how well we are recovering from the negative effects of the pandemic.
No massive abandonment of learners after confinement
Motshekga said, meanwhile, a key question for the sector was whether the pandemic had an impact on learners dropping out of school.
She said the department is monitoring the situation and hiring researchers. After conflicting initial reports, there is now agreement that the initial evidence that showed around half a million children had not returned to school when they should have was not correct.
“It received media coverage in the middle of last year. The evidence we have now, and the researchers agree on this, is that there was no massive worsening of the patterns. abandonment, compared to what we saw before the pandemic.
“There have been a few issues – such as R-1 enrollment being around 25,000 lower than expected in 2021 due to parents being late for their children’s first enrolment. But, compared to the initial estimate of half a million, this is a relatively small and manageable problem. »
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