BACKGROUND : South Africa’s participation across a number of international large-scale
assessment programmes provides continued evidence of poor student achievement across
grades and phases. Despite discouraging achievement results, evidence of slow progress
begins to emerge, yet systemic inequalities persist.
AIM : This article aims to unpack the possible value of large-scale assessment data in measuring
equal educational opportunity as conceptualised by the opportunity to learn (OTL).
SETTING : While overall scores on international large-scale assessment in countries like South
Africa are often driven by aptitude, student motivation and social class, OTL, as described in
this article, should provide a more accurate reflection of the nature of performance and the
kinds of opportunities afforded to students across an unequal sector to learn.
METHODS : A multiple linear regression was conducted using the South African PIRLS 2016
teacher and student questionnaire data and the PIRLS Literacy Grade 4 overall reading literacy
performance score as the dependent variable.
RESULTS : While socio economic status makes a substantial contribution in the current model,
the only predictor that was significant is the scale based on student reports on lessons about
CONCLUSION : Through the use of multiple regression analysis, this article concludes that a more
effective use of large-scale assessment data from an OTL perspective, specifically in developing
contexts, is still problematic using teacher and student questionnaire data. Issues of social
desirability and overly positive reporting make any claims about the teachers’ role in providing
opportunities to learn and exposure to the curriculum in the classroom difficult to gauge.