2021 PIRLS Results – Can South Africa’s children read well?

The results of the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) were released on 16 May 2023. The disappointing results show that 81% of South Africa’s Grade 4 learners struggle to read for meaning. This is 3 percentage points higher than the results from 2016. South Africa is ranked last out of 57 countries. Given the challenges South Africa’s schooling system faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts had warned there would be a decline in reading outcomes. The extended school closures and disruptions to classroom learning have resulted in significant learning losses that are reflected in the results, and since then, many learners haven’t had a chance to catch up. In addition, the government’s national reading strategy has been slow off the starting blocks.

Kentse Radebe, DGMT Innovation Director, spoke to INX Prime about the reasons for the decline and what can be done to turn it around like accelerated catch-up programmes for learners that have fallen behind and proper resources being put behind a national reading strategy. Watch the interview below.



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