Today the Minister of Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga released the results of the Annual National Assessments for 2014 (report here, speech here). This is not my post on the ANA results – I will write an article for next week’s M&G for that. (However, if it were my blog on the ANAs I would talk about how Grade 9’s abysmal results are rooted in Foundation Phase and the early grade ANAs are not accurate reflections of learning. O, ya, and also that the ANASs are absolutely, categorically and unequivocally NOT comparable year-on-year). But as I said, this is not my blog on ANAs.
Instead it is my blog on the Minister’s excellent choice to focus on reading. In her speech today she devoted considerable attention to the importance of reading and highlighted the numerous initiatives that the DBE has undertaken to improve the state of reading in South Africa (see page 20 and 21).
The Minister also makes extensive reference to the 2013 NEEDU Grade 5 Reading Report (draft). Together with Lillie Pretorius’ excellent article, this NEEDU report was the best thing I’ve read on reading all year. To give an overview of the report let me quote from the introduction:
“This report begins with a brief discussion of literacy and the complexity of reading and reading instruction. It gives a short explanation of the difference between decoding and comprehension and the importance of oral reading fluency for understanding and interpreting what is being read. The report outlines the importance of reading norms, and in particular reading norms for a country like South Africa with the large majority of its early readers reading in a second language. Finally, before the NEEDU Grade 5 reading data is presented, the recent and current national strategies and interventions to improve learner reading proficiency are tracked, suggesting that the crises in reading in South Africa is not new, is not unknown, yet persists” (p 4).
I have argued elsewhere that I believe we need to adopt a national education goal in South Africa; “Every child must read and write fluently by the end of grade 3.” Anyone who is seriously interested in education in South Africa and how to improve the state we’re in should read this draft of the upcoming NEEDU report. It is truly excellent.