SADTU welcomes the progress in International Reading Literacy Study

7 December 2018

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) has noted the release of the International Reading Literacy Study which has reflected that 78% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning.

As a union in the education sector, we find this deeply disturbing but we welcome the study and feel vindicated by some of its findings. This dismal performance by our Grade 4 learners is a manifestation of teaching to tests through the Annual National Assessments (ANA) which put teachers under pressure to shift from teaching for learning to teaching for tests.

We take umbrage when political parties use this as a political campaigning tool. For the EFF to put the blame squarely on SADTU's doorstep is nauseatingly naive and downright paranoid.

There are multitude of factors which have led to this and the quality of teaching is one of several. SADTU has for many years, been at the forefront calling for teacher development and training. We were the first to bemoan the closure of teacher training colleges that did sterling work in preparing primary school teachers.

The study has further shown that stimulating home environments where parents sometimes or often read to their children, fared better. Although South Africa has many child-headed homes, we call upon those parents who are around their children, to engage actively in their children's education.

The issue of language is another contributing factor raised in the study. It says that when children are taught in a language that they do not speak at home, they are at a disadvantage.

The study says the following regarding language in South Africa; "While 56% of English-speakers and 51% of Afrikaans-speakers performed above the low international benchmark, only 20% of Setswana-speakers and no more than 7% of Sepedi speakers did. The disparity in performance among those taught in English between those who spoke English at home and those who did not is a clear indication that being taught in a language not spoken at home puts a child at a disadvantage."

It is a well-known fact that in South Africa, the majority of learners are taught in a language that they do not speak at home. Grade 4 is most tricky and emotionally taxing for the majority of South African learners as it is in this
grade when English is introduced as the language of instruction.

The study has also highlighted the importance of access to pre-schooling in supporting the development of early reading skills. In South Africa, pre-schooling is not in the hands of the department of education but in Social Development. Its emphasis is more on chaperoning the learners rather than developing their reading skills.

SADTU is in no way harbouring incompetence. Teachers have been subjected to too many changes in the curriculum and have been given too little training to cope with these changes. To try and mitigate the situation, SADTU has its own Teacher Development Institute where we train members to be on par with the changes.

SADTU sees the study not as a fault finding exercise but is meant to offer to assist in structuring policies that will improve learning and teaching.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat


General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157