The results of the 2021 Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS) were released today, which confirmed that learning losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are severe across South Africa. South Africa’s average PIRLS score dropped from 320 in 2016, to 288 in 2021, a drop of 32 points on the scale. However, the Western Cape scored 363, which is the highest score received by a province, and 75 points ahead of the average score for South Africa.
We have already taken decisive action to reverse the Covid-19 learning losses in the Foundation Phase based on our systemic test results:
- The Western Cape Reading Strategy was implemented to strengthen performance in reading across all grades.
- We allocated R118 million in the 2022/23 financial year for a Foundation Phase reading programme in three languages with training and the distribution of decodable readers and anthologies for Grades 1 to 3. And a further allocation of R288 million has been made over the next three financial years to add to this existing support.
- As a province, we made the decision to allocate an extra two hours per week for reading within the school day in the Foundation Phase for the 3rd and 4th term of 2022. The additional time has now been recommended for schools across the country and continues for the youngest learners of the Western Cape.
What our 2022 systemic test results showed was that we had halted the decline in scores for Grade 3 Language, with the pass rate increasing marginally to 38.5%. Nonetheless, it is very concerning that the Western Cape’s 2021 PIRLS score of 363 dropped 14 points from our 2016 score of 377. What the PIRLS results clearly confirm is that the pandemic had effectively wiped out years of gains, and put the futures of our youngest learners at serious risk.
Which is why we are investing a further R1.2 billion into our #BackOnTrack programme over the next three years, to improve learning outcomes across all phases so that our children have a better future in the Western Cape. 333 schools have been selected to receive targeted support based on the systemic test results, in addition to the 1 100 schools already receiving extra support in the Foundation Phase since 2022.
The new schools selected will identify 126 000 learners, 8 980 teachers and 28 000 parents targeted for focussed participation, in addition to the 310 000 learners and 10 000 teachers already participating in the Foundation Phase.
A tremendous amount of work has gone into getting this massive programme off the ground, and we invite all residents of the Western Cape to support us on this journey, and make the choice to invest in our children’s futures. Let us all work together to get our children #BackOnTrack!
Read more about the #BackOnTrack programme here: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/gc-news/408/59620
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Western Cape Education Department, South Africa.
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