Minister Grant: Educators are Critical to Improvements in Literacy Performance | Western Cape Government

Speeches

Minister Grant: Educators are Critical to Improvements in Literacy Performance

29 June 2011

Good morning to you all.

I am delighted that we have had such a positive turnout of educators at this conference. It's very encouraging to see that so many of you are willing to give up part of your holiday to attend these sessions. It demonstrates each of your commitment to education and improving learner outcomes in this province. It also reveals that we all recognise the fundamental importance of reading in creating a healthy public school environment and to the future wellbeing of this country.

Literacy skills, such as reading, language and writing, are an integral part of the national curriculum. A learner who cannot read cannot be promoted through the system. This in turn leads to poor performance and ultimately a withdrawal from the schooling system. Reading has in fact become so important that, according to the publication The Flat World and Education, increasingly states in the USA are predicting the number of prison beds they will need in a decade based on current Grade 3 reading scores! Unfortunately, the reality is that in the Western Cape, the levels of learner achievement in literacy are still not acceptable.

The recent release of the ANAs confirms this. While the Western Cape continues to lead other provinces in literacy performance, the levels of learner achievement is still not acceptable. However, we did not need the ANAs to tell us where we are in terms of literacy outcomes. Our own Grade 3 and 6 systemic testing indicates where our weaknesses lie. In 2010, for Grade 3, we achieved 54.9%, which is in line with our target of a 55% pass rate for literacy.

In Grade 6, learners achieved 52.3%, compared to our target of 45%.

These are marked improvements from previous years; however, it is clear that we still have a long way to go before we reach the levels we aspire to.

But on the basis of this testing, we have repeatedly stated that one of our core focuses is to improve literacy performance in schools.

Therefore, we will continue to prioritise our literacy strategy in schools by closely monitoring classroom practice, increasing the provision of reading books, providing additional resources to schools, particularly in the Foundation Phase, including the allocation of teaching posts and the building of relief classrooms to reduce learner numbers in the lower grades. But critical to any improvements in literacy performance are the educators themselves. And the fact that you are all here today, just a few days into the June holidays at a reading conference, is most encouraging.

It is important that you all continue to develop your teaching skills throughout your career. By comparing and showcasing best practice, we are then able to share new techniques and skills and learn new methods in the delivery of the curriculum.

I realise that turning the performance levels in your school around is not easy. But I know it is possible.

Impendulo Primary School in Makhaza is a good example. This school went against all odds to turn around their results in just one year. Under the management of their new principal, Mrs Pheliswa Busika, the school undertook to improve their literacy and numeracy results by accepting and implementing a new approach to teaching and learning. Their hard work and commitment did pay off. In 2010, the school achieved remarkable results, turning the 4% they achieved for numeracy in 2008, to 50% in 2010 - an improvement of 46%. In literacy, they achieved similar results. In 2008, they achieved 16.6%; this increased to 58.3% - an improvement of 41.7%. These results did not come easy. It took a lot of hard work, sacrifice and commitment by the whole educator team.

Their approach included a number of factors, including "time on task" and increased parental involvement. But most importantly was acknowledging that there needed to be a change in direction, enthusiasm and teaching method at the school. This acknowledgement led to the formation of a "LITNUM committee", which devised strategies to improve their literacy and numeracy results. Also critical to their success was that the educators at the school supported and encouraged each other throughout the year.

They planned their classes together, shared ideas and best practice. The school even clustered with other schools in the area to share teaching styles, skills and tasks. This exposed both the educators and the learners to different styles of teaching. At this conference, you will be exposed to different techniques and styles of teaching. Take this opportunity to grow as a teacher and bring what you learn here back to your schools and classrooms. If Impendulo can do it, so can you. Being here today is already a step in the right direction. Good luck and enjoy yourselves!

Thank you.

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