News & events


The Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS): Setswana literacy intervention impact after two years

10 November 2017
12:30 - 14:00

Presented by  Ms Nompumelelo Mohohlwane (Department of Basic Education) and Dr Cas Prinsloo (HSRC, ESD)

Date: 10 November 2017    
  12h30 – 14h00 
Venues: Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, PE and Sweetwaters

Alarmingly low and unequal learning foundations exist in South African primary schools, as shown by the results from many national systemic evaluations, cross-border comparative studies, and academic articles. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) showed in 2006 that more than 80% of Grade 5 learners in a nationally representative sample could not yet read for meaning. Early-grade performance strongly predicts secondary school completion (Van der Berg, 2015; Taylor, Van der Berg, Reddy & Janse van Rensburg, 2015). Similar low levels of literacy proficiency were confirmed by pre-PIRLS in 2011, and the 2016 findings are eagerly awaited (December 2017).

EGRS forms part of a series of large-scale interventions of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) with research oversight and evaluation from various academic institutions. It aims to build evidence of impact in improving learning and teaching of early-grade reading, using formal impact evaluation methodologies (randomised experiments) and qualitative mixed-method classroom-based study also to understand where, how and why different elements are working.

Evaluation outcomes will be reported from the first phase of the project (2015-2017), implementing three different Setswana Home Language reading interventions in the North-West province. Other phases are covering teacher support in the delivery of English as a First Additional Language in Grades 1 to 3 (2017-2019; Mpumalanga), and Numeracy. The Setswana study, with its multiple donors and partners, compares the cost-effectiveness of three promising intervention models in Quintile 1-3 schools. Each intervention covers a separate group of 50 schools, with 80 schools, where ordinary schooling is continuing, serving as controls.

The formal impact evaluation methodology (Randomised Control Trial; RCT) is complemented with a 60-classroom observation study and eight detailed case-studies. The three intervention models have been: (1) structured learning programme support (lesson plans and graded readers) through centralised training to teachers at two-day workshops twice a year; (2) the same structured support, but through specialist on-site coaching and small cluster training sessions; (3) a parental intervention through weekly meetings with community reading coaches about the importance of and knowledge underpinning learning to read in the early grades, and related support tools. One important recommendation concerns the urgent need for reading norms in the African languages.

Various reports and related materials can be accessed on the following link:

Pretoria: HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Contact : Jo-Anne Chauvet or Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail:

Cape Town: HSRC, Merchant House 116-118 Buitengracht Street Cape Town, Cape Town. Contact: Jean Witten, Tel (021) 4668004 or or Carmen August at

  The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001 , Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or, or Hlengiwe Zulu at e-mail

Sweetwaters: Old Bus Depot, Mbubu Road, Sweetwaters Tel: 033-324 5000

Kindly note that seminars can now be accessed via the Vidyo link: