Pandor: Literacy, numeracy levels too low

Numeracy and literacy skills among grade three schoolchildren are unacceptably low, Education Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday.

“Although the average score in the 2007 survey was a little higher than the baseline 2001 result, which was 30%, clearly the scores are still unacceptably low,” she told the first-ever foundation phase (grade R to grade three) conference in Mokopane, Limpopo.

According to the 2007 survey—which looked particularly at grade three children—the overall score obtained in literacy was 36%, with 35% for numeracy. The survey was conducted among more than 54 000 grade three pupils from more than 2 400 primary schools.

Pandor said the achievement of pupils in numeracy and literacy varied in relation to the language of instruction, with English- and Afrikaans-speaking pupils fairing better.

English- and Afrikaans-speaking children’s numeracy scores were at 48% and 49% respectively, while literacy scores were at 43% and 48%.

“African language mother tongue speakers had lower average scores.
For example, for Siswati and Xitsonga learners, the average numeracy scores were 24% and 20% respectively.

The literacy score for both Siswati and Tshivenda speakers was 26%.

“Clearly, language issues impact on learner performance in literacy and numeracy,” said Pandor.

Only about 10% of pupils surveyed performed well with a score of 70% or more.

“Low attainment levels in literacy and numeracy are unacceptable because they reduce chances of success in further education,” she said.

Pandor said problems such as teacher quantity and lack of resources should be addressed.

“They are the shaky ground upon which we build education for some of our learners, especially those in rural and poor areas. This situation must change,” she said.

The conference, which includes representatives of non-profit organisations, ends on Wednesday.—Sapa

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