The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), which measures literacy rates of Grade 4 learners, has revealed that an astounding 78% of learners in Grade 4 are not able to read in any language. Essentially, our Grade 4 learners are illiterate.
This is a shocking indictment on the provision of quality basic education and shows clearly that Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, continues to fail our children.
It is high time that we get to the bottom of why South Africa consistently places last on most internationally ranked education indices.
The DA has therefore written to Minister Motshekga to demand that she appoint an independent panel of experts to probe the root causes of this unacceptably high illiteracy rate.
This independent panel should comprise of experts in education – not tainted by the likes of SADTU – and must report back to Parliament urgently, with recommendations and interventions so that our children can be provided with the quality education they need to pursue opportunities for a better life.
The fact is that South Africa consistently places last on most internationally ranked education indices, yet the Minister has failed to institute any effective interventions to ensure learners receive a quality education.
South Africa has been ranked last out of 50 countries that participated in the PIRLS 2016, which compares the reading achievement of participating countries by measuring reading ability, collecting extensive background information about policy, home support, and curricula.
South Africa previously came last out of all participants in 2006. In 2011, we only participated in pre-PRILS, which is an easier bridging measure for low-achieving countries. Yet, even in this easier version, our country was ranked last.
PIRLS is the partner study to Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) which measures Maths and Science scores for Grade 4 and 8 learners.
In TIMSS, South Africa was ranked second last out of 48 countries for Grade 4 mathematics, second last for Grade 8 mathematics and last for Grade 8 science out of 38 countries. We did not participate in Grade 4 science measurement.
Together, these two studies are a pretty damning indictment on our education system, which is hamstrung by various problems, including teachers not being literate themselves, poor management and teacher absenteeism.
It’s time the Minister stops claiming that ours is a “system on the rise” and gets to grips with the real problems of underqualified teachers, lack of basic infrastructure, and terrible service delivery by province.