According to a report published in 2008 by PIRLS-Progress in International Literacy Studies – 14 657 Grade 5 children in South Africa were assessed on their literary levels.

Grade 5 children were used as it is the year after which many schools switch to English as the language of instruction. Unfortunately the findings weren’t positive with the South African children averaging last internationally with only 302 points, 100 points under the benchmark for the low category of the study. With 60 points relating to about one year of schooling the South African average places the grade 5 year readers 3 years behind the international average of Grade 4’s. In layman’s terms it means that our children read their home language about four years behind children in other countries.

Some of the the reasons for this disturbing finding is that; 60% of primary schools do not have a library or classroom library so books have to be supplied, South African class sizes were also the highest in the study with a need to reduce the pupil-to- teacher ratio, andmany children receive fewer than three hours of reading instruction a week, even though the curriculum requires more than 6 hours to be spent on reading.

(Cape Town’s Child magazine November 2009).

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