Children's reading progress came to a halt in 2020, education department warns

29 August 2021 - 15:04 By prega govender
Reading progress was affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns last year.
Reading progress was affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns last year.
Image: Daniel Born

A senior official of the department of basic education admitted that while teaching was progressing at “a better than expected level”, “very, very low levels of learning” were taking place.

During a media briefing by the department on Sunday, Cheryl Weston presented the findings of oversight and monitoring visits to schools to gauge their progress on the coverage of the curriculum.

She said that teachers were prioritising curriculum coverage which meant the focus was on teaching.

“Despite the teaching that is continuing, there’s still a large number of learning losses that is continuing.”

She said teachers were trying to stay on par with the annual teaching plans.

“When we interrogate the evidence of learning, we really find almost no correlation between the teaching that has taken place and the learning that we are expecting. So our learning losses are really, really worrisome at this stage.”

She said they planned to use the data they collected “to create better support for our teachers to ensure that within the three years we are able to secure or recover as much of the learning losses as possible”.

Following the disruptions to schooling, the department has embarked on a three-year curriculum recovery plan which started this year

Prof Martin Gustafsson, an adviser to the department of basic education, said that before the pandemic grade 2 and 3 pupils in Mpumalanga were expected to know 13 and 22 correct words in isiZulu per minute respectively.

At the end of grade 4 last year, they only knew 24 correct words per minute while the historical data suggested it should have been 31.

“In other words, reading progress for these learners came to a halt in 2020. About 80% of what children should have learnt in a year was lost,” he said.


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