New UJ SARChI Chair Hosts "Reading in the Foundation Phase" Symposium
On the 29th of May the SARChI Chair in Integrated Studies of Learning Language, Mathematics and Science in Primary School hosted a symposium on "Reading in the Foundation Phase: Current developments and remaining gaps." As part of the symposium there were 32 delegates who heard presentations from 8 reading researchers from UNISA, the University of Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg, and the Department of Basic Education. The full program can be found below.
The symposium was one of the inaugural events hosted by the SARChI Chair Prof Elizabeth Henning, and was organised by Dr Nic Spaull, a research associate affiliated with the Chair. Dr Spaull has recently been involved in two large research projects that have focussed on reading in the Foundation Phase and chose to convene the symposium at the University of Johannesburg given the complementarities with the SARChI Chair on primary schooling.
Throughout the day presenters emphasised the centrality of learning to read. This was stressed in the opening presentation when Dr Spaull concluded his address: "Unless children learn to read, they cannot read to learn. When children don't learn to read by the end of Grade 3 they fall further and further behind the curriculum even as they proceed into higher grades. When 58% of our Grade 4 children have not learned to read in any language after four years of full time schooling we need to acknowledge that this is the biggest solvable problem in our education system."
Prof Sebate and Dr Mampuru from UNISA outlined some of the challenges with translating the DBE workbooks into 11 languages, and spoke about the launch of the DBE Graded Readers series. In her address Prof Pretorius stressed the importance of oral reading fluency in learning to read and in assessing reading development and reading difficulties. Prof Fleisch and Dr Taylor reported some preliminary results from two randomised control trials in KwaZulu-Natal and the North West provinces, both focussing on reading at the primary school level. The NW research comprises 250 schools in the province
In brief outline of the aim of the Chair over five years Prof Henning pointed out the importance of a pedagogical connection between learning to read and learning science and mathematics. She said that the research in the Chair will contribute to the existing school curriculum by finding practical pathways to integrate the language curriculum with the science and the maths curriculum
Perhaps the most important discussion of the day was the 'open discussion' session at the end of the symposium where Carol Nuga Deliwe (the Chief Director of Strategy, Planning Research and Analysis in the National DBE) provided helpful contextualisation of the on-going research initiatives and how these fit within existing government programmes. There was widespread agreement that the Department of Basic Education needed to prioritise the goal of the universal acquisition of basic reading skills above other goals.
Prof Henning closed the symposium and promised to host a yearly symposium on the same topic (Reading in the Foundation Phase), with the intention of bringing researchers, policy-makers and practitioners together to address the reading crisis in South Africa.
|08:30 - 09:00 ||Morning tea and coffee|
|09:00 – 09:20||Nic Spaull, University of Johannesburg/OECD|
Reading in the Foundation Phase – introduction, welcome and overview
|09:25 – 09:45||Deborah Mampuru, University of South Africa, |
DBE Workbooks and graded readers: Successes and challenges
|09:50 – 10:10||Phaladi Sebate, University of South Africa|
Adapting the DBE workbooks into African languages
|10:15 – 10:35||Lilli Pretorius, University of South Africa|
Oral Reading Fluency and other components of ESL reading: What we know and what we still need to discover
|10:40 – 11:00||Stephen Taylor, Department of Basic Education|
Preliminary results of a Randomized Control Trial assessing an early grade reading intervention in the North West
|11:00 – 11:20||Tea and coffee break|
|11:25 – 11:50||Elizabeth Henning, University of Johannesburg|
Vision for the new NRF SARChI Chair in Integrated Studies of Learning Language, Mathematics and Science in the Primary School
|11:55 – 12:20 |
|Brahm Fleisch, Wits University|
Reflections on large-scale interventions: Overview of ongoing interventions and discussion of the Triple Cocktail
|12:20 – 13:20|
|Carol Nuga Deliwe, Department of Basic Education & Nic Spaull, University of Johannesburg/OECD|
Facilitated discussion with everyone on prioritising reading in the DBE – moving from rhetoric to implementation
|13:30 – 14:30||Lunch|