Using Literacy to Shape the Future
Sunday, 8 September 2013 was International Literacy Day and focused attention worldwide on the importance of literacy.
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) requested all schools to organise reading activities for all grades in the lead-up to International Literacy Day.
The WCED suggested that each learner select a book of their choice to be read over a number of days. The reading activity should culminate on Monday, 9 September 2013 with learners sharing with others what they have read, as well as writing a summary of what book they have read.
The department encouraged the use of class- and school-based incentives for learners who have shown initiative in this regard.
UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has been celebrating International Literacy Day for over 40 years by reminding the international community that literacy is a human right and the foundation of all learning.
This year’s theme is Literacies for the 21st Century.
According to UNESCO, the theme is aimed at highlighting the need to realise “basic literacy skills for all” as well as equip everyone with more advanced literacy skills as part of lifelong learning.
“Over the years, the notion of literacy has evolved. The conventional concept limited to reading, writing and numeracy skills is still in wide use, as well as the notion of functional literacy, which links literacy with socio-economic development. But other ways of understanding 'literacy' or 'literacies' have emerged to address the diverse learning needs of individuals in knowledge-oriented and globalised societies.”
In the Western Cape, Zwaanswyk Academy was the proud winner of the 2013 Growsmart literacy competition, held in honour of International Literacy Day at the Lookout, V&A Waterfront on Saturday.
A total of 198 Western Cape schools, the majority located in previously disadvantaged areas, participated in this year’s Growsmart competition. Each school selected a team of three learners to represent their school and, over a number of months, they competed against each other on stage before an audience. The learners were required to spell words, give definitions and construct sentences.
The project, which was now in its fourth successful year, after launching in 2010 with 80 schools, was fully supported and guided by the WCED.
In 2009, the Western Cape Government made the commitment to improving the language levels of learners with the ultimate objective to improve the quality of the whole system, improving learner performance and retention in all grades and better outcomes in the National Senior Certificate.
In order to determine the levels of learners’ language abilities so that the department can target and assist schools in improving their outcomes, the WCED has been conducting language testing for learners in both Grade 3 and Grade 6 for a number of years, introducing Grade 9 testing in 2010 for the first time.
The Western Cape Government firmly believed in the value in providing diagnostic assessment of the provincial education system to improve the management of education and learner performance.
An analysis of the 2012 results indicated that the levels of literacy were improving in the Western Cape, suggesting that strategies such as the provision of additional readers and the introduction of textbooks in the Foundation Phase, have yielded positive results.
The department pointed out that while the 2012 tests have resulted in some pleasing improvements, there was still considerable work that needed to be done to ensure that the improvements continued to happen and resulted in acceptable outcomes for all learners in these tests.
The WCED’s language strategy for schools includes diagnostic testing of learners in Grades 3, 6 and 9; careful analysis of test results; teacher training and support; ensuring “text-rich” schools and parent and community mobilisation.
The WCED said that while they would continue to implement appropriate strategies and invest in improving the language skills of learners through schools, they also appeal to parents to play a role in ensuring further progress.
Parents can play a crucial role in supporting their children and their education. The department’s literacy and numeracy campaign was therefore aimed at the parent and asked them to:
“Help your child read, write and practise maths every day. Let’s make education better together”.
The department advised that simple things like asking a child to count groceries in shopping bags, reading a headline in a newspaper or writing down what they did in school that day, can go a long way to developing a young child’s skills.
“We hope that this campaign alerts parents to their responsibilities in developing their children’s language and mathematics skills.
“By working together, parents can also ensure further progress.”