How well do South African Grade 4 learners read when compared internationally and locally in the 11 official languages? Can Grade 4 learners read for meaning by the end of their scholastic year? These are but some of the many critical questions the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) aimed to answer when South Africa participated in the 2016 round. The PIRLS Literacy assessment contains easier passages and questions when compared to the standard PIRLS assessment. Due to the low South African achievement in previous rounds of participation, South Africa opted to participate in PIRLS Literacy at Grade 4 level in the 2011 and 2016 cycles.
Despite the fact that the South African Grade 4 learners wrote easier passages than most of their international counterparts, South Africa was the lowest performing country out of 50 and was on average 6 schooling years behind the top performing countries. South Africa participated at a national level, and Grade 4 samples were drawn to represent all 11 languages and the nine provinces. The highlight report includes comparisons between the 2011 and 2016 cycles as well as international reading literacy benchmarks reached. The report concludes that South Africa faces many challenges when developing reading literacy at Grade 4 level. Findings include that learners who attended schools in rural areas and townships and were taught in the African languages in Foundation Phase tend to have lower reading literacy comprehension when compared to other learners in the study. Boys also emerged as a vulnerable group who need additional assistance as they have significantly lower reading literacy achievement when compared with girls.
PIRLS Literacy 2016: South African Highlights Report Grade 4