To most of us, it comes as no surprise that the South African education system is in crisis. The national curriculums focus on mastering content may come at the expense of developing critical cognitive and language skills which students need to succeed in an academic setting. The latest statistics on literacy among South African scholars seem to reflect this.
Research results released by the University of Pretoria in December of 2017 revealed just how dire the situation has become. They concluded that 8 out of 10 Grade 4 pupils are still not reading at an appropriate level. South Africa also recently placed last out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. These results highlight the need for an effective large scale intervention strategy in order to improve literacy among South African learners.
By identifying at risk learners and applying the Fast ForWord intervention, many schools across the world have equipped their students with the cognitive and language skills necessary to advance learning. Their results have been recorded and show significant increases in reading and language tests, as outlined below.
Students in Western Australia improve reading and language skills
Fast ForWord participants made significantly better gains on a battery of language and literacy tests than a comparison group who received the standard curriculum alone.
High school students improve reading achievement on state tests even after program ends
This study shows impressive long-term results on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) which is administered annually throughout Texas and is closely aligned with the state curricular standards.
Primary school students improve in reading, language arts, and mathematics on state tests
Fast ForWord participants showed significant improvements in their Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores (reading, language arts, and mathematics) when compared with students who did not participate in the Fast ForWord program. These students also experienced continued improvements over the following years.
District-wide English Language Arts scores improve and surpass state average for students achieving above benchmark
In 2008, for the first time in a decade, this school district exceeded the state average for the percentage of fourth graders reading at or above the Basic level on the initial
Students in South Australia improve auditory processing skills
Students showed significant improvements in auditory processing skills after participating in the Fast ForWord program, with the group moving into the normal range on all measures.
Australian students improve NAPLAN assessment results in every area of the curriculum
On every area of the curriculum assessed by the NAPLAN assessment, the average growth from year 3 to year 5 of all the students who had completed Fast ForWord was greater than the average growth of the students who had not completed the program.
With research-based, replicable intervention it is possible that we could increase literacy levels in South African schools on a large scale. Such intervention would also go a long way in redressing the economic injustices of the past, ensuring that each child receives an equal opportunity when it comes to academic success.
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