The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education has been devastating, as evidenced by the recently released Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2021 results. South Africa experienced a 32-point drop in its average PIRLS score, a concerning trend that demands swift action to address.
Western Cape Province’s Achievement
Amidst this gloomy landscape, the Western Cape province stands out as a beacon of hope, with the highest provincial score of 363, a commendable 75 points above the national average.
Western Cape Reading Strategy
To address the concerning decline in reading scores, the Western Cape government has introduced the Western Cape Reading Strategy. This initiative focuses on the Foundation Phase of education and aims to improve reading performance across all student grades in the region.
To support this initiative, the government has allocated R118 million for the 2022/23 financial year. The funds are directed towards a Foundation Phase reading program in the region’s three languages, covering training and the distribution of decodable readers and anthologies for Grades 1 to 3. R288 million has also been set aside for the next three fiscal years to reinforce this support.
Additional Support for In-School Reading
Recognizing the critical importance of in-school reading, the Western Cape government decided to allocate an additional two hours per week for this activity during the 3rd and 4th term of 2022 for Foundation Phase students. This approach has garnered national attention and has been endorsed for schools throughout the country, ensuring the Western Cape’s youngest learners continue to receive this vital support.
Progress in Grade 3 Language Scores
While the 2022 systemic test results show that the decline in Grade 3 Language scores has been arrested, with the pass rate marginally increasing to 38.5%, the Western Cape’s PIRLS score still experienced a 14-point dip, dropping from 377 in 2016 to 363 in 2021.
To combat this detrimental trend, the Western Cape government is channeling an additional R1.2 billion into their #BackOnTrack program over the next three years. The objective is to enhance learning outcomes across all educational phases, securing a brighter future for the province’s children.
Targeted Assistance to Schools
The program has identified 333 schools that will receive targeted assistance based on their systemic test results, joining the 1,100 schools that have already been benefiting from extra Foundation Phase support since 2022.
The expanded #BackOnTrack program is set to cover 126,000 learners, 8,980 teachers, and 28,000 parents, who will participate in specialized activities. This initiative builds upon the existing program, which encompasses 310,000 learners and 10,000 teachers in the Foundation Phase.
The Western Cape government has dedicated considerable resources and energy to launch this ambitious project, and they encourage all residents to support this endeavor and invest in their children’s futures.
Collaborative Efforts Get Children #BackOnTrack
By collaboratively working to get children #BackOnTrack, the Western Cape aspires to alleviate the adverse effects of the pandemic on education and lay the groundwork for a brighter future for the province’s younger generations. Through these targeted initiatives, the Western Cape aims to set an example for the rest of the country, demonstrating the importance of prioritizing education and fostering a nurturing environment for all learners.