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Oxford University Press provides solutions to SA education challenges

by | Sep 5, 2023 | News, News

Recent research studies found South Africa’s education outcomes well below the average of participants, critical results that have far-reaching effects for South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030’s goals of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality.

Oxford University Press offers solution-driven publications to address the empowerment of early grade learners in three key educational areas, namely Reading, Mathematics and Interventions.

Oxford’s three scholarly volumes span research focusing on developments in early grade learning in South Africa from 2010 to 2022, edited by Nic Spaull and Elizabeth Pretorius (Reading), Hamsa Venkat and Nicky Roberts (Mathematics), and Nic Spaull and Stephen Taylor (Interventions).

These three volumes are enriched by the collective research of 77 authors from diverse disciplines, most of whom are well known and highly respected South Africans in the field of early grade reading and mathematics.

Oxford University Press is the leading academic literacy publisher of educational solutions in South Africa for educators, learners and students and these volumes lead the way as they seek insights into educational lessons learnt over the past decade. They explore whether reading and mathematics outcomes have improved, why they have improved and the reasons that, despite improvement, performance levels remain comparatively low.

Each scholarly volume concludes with an analysis of which interventions work and why, as well as scaling successful interventions to address how best to meet literacy challenges facing South Africa. 

In May 2023, the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) saw South Africa produce shocking results, finishing dramatically lower than the average of the 57 countries in the study, with results declining since the previous study in 2016. Outcomes revealed that a staggering 81% of Grade 4 learners in South African cannot read for meaning in any language, including their mother tongue.

These grim statistics further prove that our education system is in crisis. Intervention is critical and it is left to the educational specialists to do whatever possible to seek impactful interventions in the classroom and in the home.

Oxford University Press has over 100 years of experience in educational publications and resource support in South Africa and having published these three volumes, they tackle the challenges head-on, based on sound pedagogical, academic and educational research over a decade.

Each volume addresses a particular facet of the issues and together they offer constructive and practical proven solutions to the challenges in a bid to enhance early grade learning outcomes.

Early Grade Reading in South Africa

The Early Grade Reading volume aims to build foundations for lifelong literacy as it explores the reasons for poor reading, poor comprehension and how to address these problems. Research embarked on large scale longitudinal assessments of reading in African languages, in-depth classroom observations, as well as the setting of practice and reading benchmarks. 

Research demonstrates the direct correlation between acquiring strong reading skills during early education as a foundation for lifelong love of learning and improved academic results. The findings highlight the importance of early intervention, nurturing reading abilities, and fostering a conducive learning environment to tackle literacy challenges effectively.

Nic Spaull explains, “Early grade reading is a cornerstone of educational success. By identifying and addressing reading difficulties at an early stage, we can empower learners to overcome literacy barriers and succeed in their academic journey.”

Through extensive exploration and empirical evidence, the authors underscore the role of early literacy as the foundation upon which future academic success is built and empower both learners and teachers to discover a love for reading and therefore learning.

Early Grade Mathematics in South Africa

The Early Grade Maths volume explores reasons for continued struggles with basic calculations, how to address the challenges and where to focus policy. Research supports the fact that a strong maths foundation impacts future academic performance, as well as nurtures general problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities.  

Editor and researcher Nic Spaull explains, “Early Grade Maths lays the groundwork for logical reasoning and analytical thinking. A solid mathematical foundation is essential to foster a generation of capable problem-solvers and future leaders.”

Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Interventions in South Africa

The Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Interventions in South Africa volume focuses on what, where and how interventions work, exploring effective strategies to address learning challenges faced by early-grade learners.

Drawing on empirical evidence, the researchers emphasize the importance of targeted interventions to support struggling students and bridge the achievement gap. This volume equips educators with evidence-based approaches to enhance learning outcomes and creates an inclusive learning environment, placing young learners on the path to maximize their full potential. Interventions offer a roadmap for educators and policymakers to design inclusive and equitable educational systems and to work collaboratively to ensure success.

In addition, Nic Spaull mentioned, “Interventions offer tailored support to learners, allowing them to unleash their full potential. Through these interventions, we can create an equitable education system where every child has the opportunity to thrive.”

The scholarly volumes on Early Grade Reading, Maths and Interventions offer profound insights into the critical aspects of early grade education. By leveraging the research encapsulated in these volumes, we can pave the way for a brighter educational future for young learners. These effective interventions not only promise brighter futures, but they support South Africa’s National Development Plan’s focus on education as a key driver towards all South Africans attaining a decent standard of living through the elimination of poverty and reduction of inequality. Oxford University Press thereby commissions, funds and supports research to bring about a more prosperous nation.

For further information on the publications, or to access the free digital copies, please visit the links below:


PIRLS assessment: https://pirls2021.org/

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