The Second Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS II) provides support to Foundation Phase educators teaching English First Additional Language. Improving the learning of English is important since the majority of learners will need to learn in English from Grade 4. Currently, 180 schools in Mpumalanga are participating in the project, but should the project be successful, the support will be rolled out to more schools in the country. EGRS II has been focussed on providing Grade 1 teachers with support.
Funding & Support
- The project is funded by USAID and is run by the Department of Basic Education in collaboration with the Wits School of Education.
- The research team also works closely with and gets support from the Mpumalanga Department of Education including subject advisors and district officials.
The Department of Basic Education is investigating ways to strengthen the teaching and learning in the Foundation Phase through the Early Grade Reading Studies. Building on previous successes in the North West province that focused on the teaching of reading in home language Setswana, the second study focuses on supporting teachers with English as First Additional Language (EFAL).
Increased support on EFAL teaching will help prepare learners for the transition to English as the language of learning and teaching which occurs in Grade 4. The findings from the project can also benefit more learners in South Africa given that the majority of learners will learn in English from Grade 4. The research team also acknowledges that teachers do not always receive the required support. The EGRS II project, therefore, experiments with two alternative ways to support teachers:
• providing a face-to-face reading coach, or a virtual coach
Implementation and Evaluation
The EGRS II project works with 180 schools in Mpumalanga in the Gert Sibande and Ehlanzeni districts. In selecting Mpumalanga as the province in which to implement and evaluate the second Early Grade Reading Study, the following requirements were considered:
- The proximity to the National Department of Basic Education in Pretoria to enable officials to monitor the implementation and evaluation at a relatively low cost
- Political stability
- The capability of the Provincial Office to provide the necessary support to the implementation of the intervention
- School environment (a functional school environment with limited teacher absenteeism was sought)
- The ability to have an adequate sample of schools, given the restrictions imposed
- The home languages spoken in each district
The interventions target English as First Additional Language, but the learner assessments contain sections assessing the learners’ home language skill level. In the Mpumalanga districts, there is a large variety of home languages, but in the district of Ehlanzeni and Gert Sibande the majority of schools either have isiZulu or siSwati as the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT).
The district of Bohlabela was excluded because the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) has already implemented scripted lesson plans in the district. The 180 selected schools have been split into three different groups using random selection. The control group consists of 80 schools. This group provides a baseline of the effectiveness of learning that occurs under normal circumstances in Mpumalanga schools.
The other two groups are part of the intervention where the research team are trying to find out whether there are any learning gains in learner performance if teachers are supported and guided in EFAL teaching. Both intervention programmes, through the Class Act/Molteno Consortium, provide teachers with additional reading resources and a structured learning programme aligned to CAPS. The two groups differ with respect to how training and support are provided:
(i) One group receives the traditional face-to-face format through central training and school-based coaching
(ii) The other group receives a combination of face-to-face training and an ICT component that includes electronic tablets and cell phone-messaging to the teacher
The cost-effectiveness of these two programmes will be measured relative to each other and relative to the control group of schools. To work out whether the interventions are successful or not, there are a number of data collection points (Table 1). This data collection has been and will be carried out by different providers, which the DBE will notify the schools about. It is important to note that the data from the evaluation will only be used by the research team to work out the success of the program. The data will not be used to evaluate individual learners, teachers, principals or how the schools function. All data are reported as averages so no individuals can be identified. Schools are informed at least one month in advance of the visit and every effort is made to keep any disruption to the normal school day as low as possible.