From 0 to 100% – How Raithby Primary turned their literacy performance around

Le Cordeur, Michael (2010)

CITATION: Le Cordeur, M. 2010. From 0 to 100% – How Raithby Primary turned their literacy performance around. Journal of Education, 49:1-30.


Recent literacy results show that only 44% of all Grade 3 learners in the Stellenbosch district, and just over 50% of all Grade 3 learners in the Western Cape, performed at an appropriate level (WCED, 2009c). According to education specialists, the problem starts in the Foundation Phase, during which learners fail to acquire the basic skills in literacy (Heugh, pers. comm.; Webb, pers. comm.). This article reflects on how a previously disadvantaged school turned around its performance in literacy by changing both its style and attitude towards teaching reading, after the circuit manager concerned decided to intervene at the school. In this article, I will argue that low levels of literacy call for a change of attitude and strategy, and the execution thereof, which should reach deep into the instructional practices of reading teachers,1 who tend, it is believed, to rely mainly on their use of the traditional approach. This approach suggests that learners are passive decoders of graphic-phonetic systems, and that they need to learn letters (sounds) first, before they can read words (Alderson, 2000). As opposed to the traditional bottom-up or top-down approaches, an interactive approach is recommended. The framework for the teaching and assessment of Grade 3 learners at Raithby Primary, in terms of the interactive approach over a period of three years, is described. The literacy results obtained by the learners over this period show that, with the interactive approach, the reading ability of learners could improve, provided that the teachers adopt a positive attitude towards the teaching of reading.

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