Western Cape celebrates International Literacy Day
8 Sep 2010
United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) proclaimed 8 September International Literacy Day on 17 November 1965.
The aim of the day is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.
The reasons for the proclamation of the day 45 years ago still apply today.
According to UNESCO, some 776 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two thirds of them are women; 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.
The drive to improve literacy skills internationally applies equally in the Western Cape. The number one priority of Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of our primary school children.
The Western Cape Education Department has pioneered the use of large scale, diagnostic testing in grades three and six, starting in 2002. We are using the results to inform our literacy and numeracy strategy.
In terms of our statement of strategic priorities, for 2010 to 2019, we are committed to improving literacy and numeracy outcomes by directing maximum resources (both human and financial) to the first three years of schooling.
In particular, the focus in the period 2010 to 2019 will be on improving the reading, writing and calculating abilities of learners. The period 2010 to 2014 will lay the foundations for these improvements.
In the period 2014 to 2019, the province's children will reap the fruits of a system that has been designed and managed to deliver on the targets set.
The main indicators for measuring the progress made Western Cape Education Department in providing quality education are:
Literacy performance in the Western Cape has improved steadily over the years, thanks to special interventions, but the results are still not good enough.
For example, the grade six literacy pass rate has improved by 13.6 percent from 35 percent in 2003 to 48.6 percent in 2009. The numeracy pass rate improved slightly from 15.6 percent to only 17.4 percent.
Unfortunately, turning around literacy and numeracy performance is a long term process. There are no quick fixes.
Our target for grade six literacy in 2012 is a pass rate of 55 percent, and 25 percent for numeracy. The same targets for 2019 are 90 percent and 80 percent respectively.
This will require sustained effort by all concerned; learners, teachers, parents and communities.
Fortunately, our schools are already taking up the challenge. Most schools have improved both their literacy and numeracy results, some of them significantly.
For example, 57.6 percent of primary schools improved their literacy results in the latest grade six tests, with 32.6 percent improving their results by more than 10 percent. Most of these schools are serving our poorest communities.
The Western Cape Education Department will test learners in grades three, six and nine in the same year for the first time this year as we intensify our efforts to provide quality education.
Success in matric ultimately depends on building a solid foundation in primary school.
In addition to diagnostic testing, the Western Cape Education Department is focusing on teacher development and building text rich schools.
The department has invested about R120 million in school libraries in our poorest communities over the past three years. This investment forms part of a larger project to ensure access to texts in every possible way.
The Western Cape Education Department will invest R101 million this year in reading books and textbooks that we will place directly in classrooms and into the hands of learners.
While it is highly regrettable that the teachers' strike has come at a time when we are making progress, we are reasonably optimistic that test results will continue to show improvement this year.
We have actively encouraged parents to ensure that their children read, write and practise maths every day, including holidays.
The Western Cape Education Department recently concluded an extensive series of meetings with communities in every district to explain the latest literacy and numeracy results and to encourage schools, parents and communities to redouble efforts to build the literacy and numeracy skills of their children.
We thank parents, schools, communities and partners in every sector for everything they have already done to promote literacy and numeracy.
Good examples include Growsmart, an initiative of the Growthpoint Properties Group in partnership with the Western Cape Education Department.
Growsmart is a literacy competition for learners in grades four, five and six, which culminates today in finals at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, appropriately on International Literacy Day, 8 September 2010.
Eighty schools took part this year. Growsmart plans to extend this programme to 120 schools in 2011.
The project has contributed significantly to raising public awareness, for example, at shopping malls, where the project team has organised events, mounted displays and collected books. We appreciate the fact that they have done so outside of teaching hours.
It is too early to say what effect this project will have on literacy results in the schools concerned. However, we are convinced that initiatives such as this contribute significantly to building a culture of reading in our schools and communities.
While we have a long way to go, we also have every reason to celebrate progress to date on International Literacy Day, and the commitment of all concerned to ensuring further progress in the years ahead.
Cell: 082 3241 284
Tel: 021 467 2377
Issued by: Western Cape Education
8 Sep 2010
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