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Abstract

In this article, I provide an overview and analysis in the domain of initial literacy learning of young South African children. I first give a sense of historical background and outline some of the extreme challenges faced in this area. I discuss the importance of understanding the multilingual nature of South African society for education, and describe some of the enabling policy shifts for language and early childhood development which have been developed since the change of government in 1994. I also describe how understandings about early literacy learning in South Africa are progressing, and relate these to international trends. I discuss how despite the positive nature of the developments in policy, little has changed as yet in practice for most young children, their families and teachers, who all suffer to varying extents from shortages of appropriate resources and information. I end by describing some of the initiatives underway in the country which are working to ensure that the trajectory is one of steady and positive change.
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DON'T EXPECT A STORY: YOUNG CHILDREN'S LITERACY LEARNING IN
SOUTH AFRICA
Carole Bloch
Early Childhood literacy specialist, Project for the Study of Alternative Education in
South Africa (PRAESA)
University of Cape Town, South Africa
In Early Years An International Journal of Research and Development Volume 20
Number 2 Spring 2000
Abstract
In this article, I provide an overview and analysis in the domain of initial literacy
learning of young South African children. I first give a sense of historical background
and outline some of the extreme challenges faced in this area. I discuss the importance of
understanding the multilingual nature of South African society for education, and
describe some of the enabling policy shifts for language and early childhood development
which have been developed since the change of government in 1994. I also describe how
understandings about early literacy learning in South Africa are progressing, and relate
these to international trends. I discuss how despite the positive nature of the
developments in policy, little has changed as yet in practice for most young children,
their families and teachers, who all suffer to varying extents from shortages of
appropriate resources and information. I end by describing some of the initiatives
underway in the country, which are working to ensure that the trajectory is one of steady
and positive change.
Keywords
Africa
bi-literacy
early childhood development
early literacy
language policy
multilingualism, multilingual education
South Africa
young children
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Introduction
South Africa has emerged from its recent troubled past under Apartheid into a present
which offers some hope and considerable challenges for the future education and
development of its citizens. Many recognise however, that it is not only apartheid that has
contributed to the challenges we face in the effective development of our education
system. It is understood that the complex cross-world relationships brought about by
colonialism have given rise to 'western' educational trends impacting strongly over time
on African schooling, particularly in the area of language. Like the rest of Africa, South
Africa is a multilingual country. Over time, many people have developed deeply complex
and negative attitudes towards the use of home languages when these are African
languages, for schooling and beyond. This makes it important that an article such as this
one, dealing with the domain of early literacy learning, is contextualised within a
framework of multilingualism.
I begin by outlining the recent past situation, move on to discussing current language and
curriculum policy decisions, and end off by providing some examples of hopeful signs
and positive practice.
A backwards glance
Under Apartheid, there was little or no state preschool provision for most children, and
that which was provided, was mainly for white children. Even now, only between 9% and
11% of children below age 6 have access to Early Childhood Development (ECD)
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provision, either from the state, or from the mainly externally funded non-governmental
organisations which have developed over time to try to meet the enormous need
(Department of Education, 1996).
The issue of language is a significant one for early childhood education. Although the
vast majority of people speak one or more African languages at home, English and
Afrikaans were the official languages of the country during the Apartheid years. The
English and Afrikaans speaking minorities were educated in their mother tongue, while
African language speaking children were forced to learn in an African language for the
first few years of schooling, after which there was an abrupt switch to using English.
Another significant factor when thinking about early encounters with written language is
that most young children in South Africa live a rural life
2
, and English is often not used
or heard by them and their families in their daily lives. It is oral language which fulfils
rich and varied functions in rural communities. It is a sad manifestation of how alienated
the school curriculum is from the cultural and social concerns of children's lives that
there have been only isolated attempts to expand the creativity and play of children's oral
language use (such as songs, wordplay and riddles) to include written versions for use as
early reading material in early childhood classrooms. Although some rhymes and songs
are taught, and chanted repeatedly (and often enjoyed by the children) they are mainly
either translations from English, or are in English and are not usually seen by the children
as text and are used largely as a control measure, to calm children down, and get them
ready for learning skills.
2
In addition to this, because many parents do not read and write, their children have little
if any exposure at home to written language, in any language. Nor do they have
opportunities to see people reading or writing as they go about their daily lives. A key
challenge for early literacy, which needs addressing across Africa, and South Africa is no
exception, is to create literate and 'print-rich' environments that stimulate and nurture a
culture of reading.
The problem of educational wastage manifest in the notorious drop-out and repeat rates
in South African schools has long been recognised (Taylor, 1989; NEPI, 1992;
Padayachie etal.,1994; Edusource,1999; Oxfam, 1999). The reasons given for this are
many and complex but it is a common view that a critical factor is that most children
have not had access to any early childhood education, which is seen to prepare them for
the formal education they will receive at primary school. This view is reflected in the
World Bank Executive Summary of the South African Study on Early Childhood
Development report:
It is widely agreed that one cause of repetition in the primary school years is inadequate
preparation of children at school entry
(Padayachie et al., 1994).
The NEPI Early Childhood Educare report cites two sets of factors which contribute to
poor educational performance. The one set relates to issues such as overcrowded classes,
lack of resources and poor teacher training, while the other relates to the readiness of
children for school and for life (NEPI,1992: 3).
The solution that has had widespread influence at least at the level of rhetoric in many
parts of Africa, including South Africa, is 'school readiness' programmes.
The notion of 'school readiness' (which is possibly still alive in the memories of British
and American educators) is one which encapsulates the underlying narrow view of
literacy as a set of formal skills held by those involved in early childhood education
(Bloch and Prinsloo,1999). 'School readiness' with its attendant list of ‘pre-literacy’
components has been the main methodological feature in the early childhood curriculum
both before the start of primary school and in the early weeks or months of Grade 1
(generally 6 to 8 year olds). It is widely believed that reading and writing are formal
skills which must begin to be taught at primary school. Although there have been
significant differences between the very limited state preschool system and the non-
formal sector, they have both tended to import and adapt progressive ideas such as child-
centred, active learning, with a concentration on learning through play. Because literacy
learning was defined as formal learning, it was not seen as part of an informal, play-based
curriculum, with the exception of reading stories and rhymes in mainly English speaking
contexts. However, a contradictory situation tended to occur in the year before school -
the ‘preschool’ year where, with the best interests of young children in mind, these
progressive practices were largely replaced by more formal 'pre-literacy' activities. The
2
consequence of this was that child exploration of authentic written language use was all
but forcefully kept out of the pre-school environment. Parents were often advised to
'leave it to the experts' and warned that there was a danger that they might confuse their
child if they tried to do the work of primary school (Bloch, 1997). The role of preschool
educators in terms of early literacy was confined mainly to setting in place the ‘pre-
reading’ and ‘pre-writing’ skills. They were generally taught out of context and in a
particular order, each skill building upon the last. These included perceptual
discrimination, auditory memory, rhyming, letter recognition, visual matching, listening
skills, sound letter correspondence and gross and small motor skills. 'Pre-writing'
involved an emphasis on patterns and neat letter formation (Bloch, 1994). The faith of
teachers in the foundational importance of these sorts of activities is illustrated by the
following incident which I observed in a popular preschool class in the centre of
Johannesburg . A four-year-old boy asked the teacher if he could go outside to play, and
she responded ‘Yes you can, as soon as you have finished your “perceptual" ‘. The child
dutifully went to a photocopied sheet of paper on a table which had an outline of a duck
with parts of its wings and back missing, to complete the required 'perceptual' task.
Such introductory activities in preschool and Grade 1 were (and still are in many
instances) often characterised, particularly in the ex-'black' and ex-'coloured' systems, by
tight levels of teacher control and extreme limitations on child initiative. The following
extract is from a Grade 1 writing lesson in an ex-'coloured' school, where about 1/3 of the
children were learning in an additional language. Most of the children had not had any
preschool experience, so that the activities that the teacher provided for them were among
their first encounters with literacy:
The children are copying letters from the board and the teacher walks around the
classroom looking at what they are doing.
Teacher: Zuki is doing it her own way.
The teacher goes to the board, and demonstrates what Zuki has done with the letter
'p' and how she wants it done.
Teacher: Down, up and around, not around first. Did I say we do it like this (she
writes the 'incorrect' movement on the board)?
Children: (chorus) No!
(Bloch, 1999a:49)
In primary school, the emphasis in reading broadened to include the mastering of phonics
and learning sight words. It was expected that children should know these well before
they began to actually read or use writing for any authentic reason
3
. (Bloch et al., 1996;
Bloch 1999a). Essentially, teachers were trained to see their task as one of simplifying
and grading the complexities of print into manageable bits in a particular order. With
writing, there was a concentration on phonics, neat handwriting and correct spelling,
generally to the total exclusion of self-expression, communication or any kind of
meaning-making.
2
Such understandings have been compounded by the fact that there has been, (and
continues to be) a severe shortage of adequate resources for teaching. In particular,
because of the continued underdevelopment of African languages, there is a tiny body of
literature for young children and the majority of early childhood classrooms are not
places where one might expect to find many story books at all. Stories have been
understood as extra rather than central to early literacy development. Most teachers have
been trained to teach reading without using books at all. It is not an exaggeration to say
that the combination of factors outlined above has had the undesirable effect of keeping
most young children away from developing the kinds of understandings and positive
attitudes towards print which contribute greatly to the foundations for learning success
(Bloch, 1994).
Continuing high dropout and attrition rates in other countries which have substantially
expanded primary educational provision, show that merely extending provision in order
to reach larger numbers of children does not guarantee the acquisition of literacy for all.
During the Apartheid years there was a strong assumption that if all children could only
have access to the resources available in the ‘white’ system, all would be well. In a way
this was a logical assumption, given that variations of the same methods were used in the
different systems. However, not only did they decrease in effectiveness of delivery and
impact in proportion to the available resources, but teachers in 'white' schools had the
enormous benefit of teaching children from homes and communities where literacy was
part and parcel of daily life. These children had already had innumerable opportunities to
literally wallow in books. They had developed a strong 'literacy set' (Holdaway, 1979) by
the time their attention was brought to phonics and sight words. And although there can
be no doubt that discrimination on the basis of colour and a lack of preschool provision
are major contributing factors to the lack of school success of the majority of children in
South Africa, the issue of how literacy is approached is critical. Referring to Latin
America, Emelia Ferreiro says:
During the past fifteen years, a series of research studies has begun to show that the
socio-economic factors are not the only ones to contribute to the failure of initial
literacy acquisition. It is also necessary to look at what goes on within schools to
unveil the institutional mechanisms and conceptual frameworks which prevent
children's access to the written word. (Ferreiro, 1993: 42)
She also describes how
...traditional school practices reduce the child to someone who is not able to think
and who can only receive, associate, and repeat. It also reduces the object of the
learning process - the writing system - to a school object, divorced from its social
purposes and functions (Ferreiro, 1992:149).
Referring to India, Krishna Kumar argues that it may well be ‘the entrenched pedagogy
of reading’ that accounts for the failure of so many primary schoolchildren to gain even
the most basic level of literacy (Kumar1993:102). This has now also been acknowledged
2
in South Africa, and I will discuss some of the measures being taken to address this
below.
Language and curriculum policy initiatives
South Africa now has eleven official languages (nine African languages, English and
Afrikaans) and a constitution that promotes multilingualism as a nation-building
instrument and a resource. Our new language in education policy promotes the
development of all the official languages and respect for all languages used in South
Africa. While the policy is flexible about implementation strategies,
the underlying principle is to maintain home language(s) while providing
access to and the effective acquisition of additional language(s). Hence the
Department of Education’s position is that an additive approach to
bilingualism
4
is to be seen as the normal orientation of our language in
education policy. (Department of Education, 1997b).
The pedagogical reason for adopting an additive bilingual approach is that research
shows that it will lead to more effective learning - both in mother tongue and in other
languages (in South Africa, usually English). Yet the economic, social and educational
climate is still one which clearly favours and continues to promote English at the expense
of indigenous languages. Nowhere is this more true than in schooling circles, where bitter
memories of Bantu education’s abuse of African languages as tools for
underdevelopment hinder positive acceptance of sustaining and extending the use of
mother tongue as well as English in education.
Language is also of fundamental importance for identity and learning. According to
Ngugi wa Thiong’o:
The choice to which language is put, is central to a people’s definition of
themselves in relation to their natural and social environment, indeed in
relation to the entire universe.
(Ngugi 1981:4)
He explains how because of having to drop the mother tongue, learning for a colonial
child, lost its emotional content and became just a cerebral activity. (Ngugi, 1981:17).
But today the trend across South Africa is that parents are demanding that their children,
even at preschool level, get taught in English, the sooner the better (Bloch, 1999b).
This ‘language issue’ must be considered together with the introduction of the new
education curriculum, Curriculum 2005, thus far implemented at Grade 1 and 2 levels
(generally 6 to 8 year olds). Since 1996, the needs of young children from birth to 9 fall
under the umbrella of Early Childhood Development (ECD), i.e. up to the end of the
Foundation phase (Department of Education, 1996). Provision is made in policy for one
preschool year, the Reception year for all 5 and 6 year old children. To date, only a small
national pilot has been implemented and progress is slow due to a lack of funds. At the
2
same time, government has passed a law that no child shall begin Grade 1 before the year
that they turn seven
5
. This action has given rise to much heated public debate, because it
is not being accompanied as yet, by any firm commitment to speeding up of Reception
year provision. Moreover, because the policy focus has been on a single Reception year,
the early childhood sector has been driven to concentrate on this, and despite a prevailing
ethos of promoting the rights of all children, the needs of children under five are not
being dealt with.
Leaving this aside, Curriculum 2005 is applicable to the Reception year as it is now
officially part of state provision. The government has followed global trends with the
curriculum, by the adoption, adaptation and implementation of a new 'outcomes based'
system. This has unfortunately included framing all discussions and developments of
education within an autocratic and deeply impenetrable (English) discourse, increasing
further the sense of demoralisation that most teachers already feel by making it extremely
difficult for them to work with it successfully. In an article in the Cape Argus this year, it
was reported that
…the department accepted that there was a ‘problem’ in the way it had written
policy documents on Curriculum 2005 and outcomes based education, so it would
rewrite them. ‘We will write it in language that teachers can understand. We can’t
make it difficult for teachers to do their job’. (Vergnani, 1999)
Be that as it may, there is now space available for addressing critical issues, long in need
of attention. The area of language and literacy in early childhood is one such issue. At
last, early literacy, generally simply described as reading, is increasingly being
recognised as one of the most important areas to 'get right', so much so that
...research into factors which inhibit or promote the learning of basic literacy and
numeracy in the Foundation Phase must rate as one of the highest research
priorities in the schooling sector. (Taylor and Vinjevold, 1999:232)
Couched within the extremely off-putting terminology are some sound and progressive
early learning principles which have yet to be interpreted coherently so that language and
literacy can become a relevant part of the curriculum. For instance, the curriculum
should become an integrated one, learning should begin with what children know and
build on that, parent involvement is valued, the curriculum should reflect home life as
well, and assessment should be continuous.
There are also shifts towards emphasising communication and meaning in the
Department of Education’s ‘learning programme statement’ for literacy:
Initially ‘literacy’ was seen as a cognitive process that enables reading,
writing and numeracy. In this document, the use of the term ‘literacy’ has
expanded to include several kinds of literacies across all learning areas.
‘Literacies’ stress the issue of access to the world and to knowledge
through development of multiple capacities within all of us to make sense
2
of our worlds through whatever means we have, not only texts and books.
(Department of Education, 1997a: iv).
Much work, however, will need to be done for teachers to begin to make sense of these
new curriculum programmes. The Department’s ‘Illustrative Learning Programmes’,
have challenging suggestions for literacy based activities which, for the first time, imply
that teachers should have faith in young children's abilities, using words such as identify,
compare and discuss, listen, answer, make a judgement, discuss, predict, list, role play,
record, compile, create. But most teachers have not had sufficient opportunities to get to
grips with the theoretical ideas which underpin this approach and still understand literacy
learning as learning sets of skills before they can be used. It appears that in some cases
this lack of clarity has led to a belief among a sizeable number of teachers that it is not
necessary to teach reading and writing to young children at all. For instance, coming to
recognise/read environmental print such as street signs and advertisements has been used
frequently to illustrate the notion of bringing real life into the classroom and showing
how young children can 'pick up things naturally'. But this has been done without the
necessary accompanying explanations and readings that would throw light onto the entire
process of how young children learn. Other teachers have said that they first need to teach
'the basics' and then they can start with 'outcomes based'. Essentially then,
…if teachers do not understand that children learn the technical aspects of
written language as they engage with meaningful social activities, and how
this happens, how can they make use of the opportunities provided ? (Bloch
and Prinsloo 1999:473)
The Gauteng Education Department has taken up the concern, with a large-scale reading
initiative in the Foundation Phase to ‘boost’ reading,
...the initiative is aimed at reversing what appears to be a perception amongst
teachers trained in outcomes based education that teaching reading is not
important. (Chisholm and Petersen, 1999:9)
Because of an unfortunate disjunction between the processes of curriculum policy and
language policy development, there is no smooth conceptual integration of the two
crucial domains of curriculum and language. This means that the complex issue of choice
of language/s for initial and future literacy learning is often sidelined and reactionary
decisions detrimental to learning are made.
6
This is, of course, particularly damaging in
the early years where children’s grasp of reading and writing in their home language or in
any other language (and their entire initiative for learning) continues to be debilitated.
Positive initiatives in education and materials
Increasingly, there is access to, and engagement with, literacy information around whole
language (Goodman, 1986), emergent literacy (Holdaway, 1979), family literacy
2
(Auerbach, 1991) and conceptions of literacy as being social and cultural practice
(Street,1995). Researchers, teacher educators and teachers have begun to face the fact
that we are dealing with complex issues. Teachers now working in classrooms with
children from various class, cultural and linguistic backgrounds are recognising that they
can no longer expect the children to all have the same understandings that they expected
from their previously homogeneous ‘school ready’ (or not) groups. Some are also
recognising that the success of such concentrated skills-based approaches rest often to a
significant extent on the encounters with, understandings of and conceptions about,
written language which young children have built up before and out of school. The kinds
of questions that have been asked through the research of Brice Heath (1983), Gregory
(1996) and others, about the nature of literacy events and practices in diverse homes and
communities are beginning to be asked in South Africa. The general conclusions which
have been reached that ‘non-mainstream’ children do indeed have a range of views and
competencies with written language which are not valued and built upon in schools,
cannot be assumed to be the same conclusions we will reach here. A small but
comprehensive two-year early literacy research project has just begun in the Western
Cape and Gauteng.
7
It will look into the various ways that young children from a range of
different social and cultural backgrounds come to encounter and make sense of written
language in their daily lives before, during and after school. The insights gained through
such research will be fed into policy and teacher development change processes.
A range of other initiatives is taking place throughout the country. For instance, at the
level of teacher education, in 1999 for the first time at the University of Cape Town,
Bachelor of Education students could choose to study Early Literacy as one of their
course options.
In the Western Cape too, there is a literacy pilot project called the Concentrated
Language Encounter which attempts to shift from a teacher-centred to a child-centred
approach. Essentially, this is a kind of language experience approach whereby the
children retell, in their own words, a story that the teacher has read to them. The teacher
then writes their words onto a chart and the children copy these down. They then write
their own story based on these words and, finally, read the story for themselves (Singh,
1999). The ‘package’ follows ‘whole language’ principles and is significant because it
links reading and writing and it needs no expensive commercial materials. Through it,
teachers start to see and understand that children have great initiative, are highly capable
and that previous methods have restricted rather than nurtured these qualities. In a school
where PRAESA (Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa) is
working as part of its work in multilingual education, a programme of bi-literacy is
taking place with Grade 2 (generally 7 and 8 year old) children in one multilingual Cape
Town school. They are in their second year of learning to read and write in both Xhosa
and English simultaneously. The emphasis is on writing in mother tongue and the
intention is that the children are enabled to rediscover their creativity and initiative to
write for real reasons, to use invented spellings as part of this process and to focus on
communication and self-expression (Bloch,1999b). A strategy used this year is
interactive letter writing (Robinson, et al, 1990) and this has led to a blossoming over
time of emergent writing by the children who because of their previous orientation to
writing, had up to this period been reluctant to do any more than copy letters and words
from the teacher.
2
READ is an organisation, which has been working in South Africa for several years.
They both train teachers and supply graded reading materials (Sunshine books, largely
from New Zealand) throughout the grades. They use a 'balanced' approach and their
emphasis is mainly on teaching literacy in English, though they have some material in
African languages in the first few grades.
Molteno is another large organisation that has done teacher training in many areas of the
country for some time. Their approach is a language experience one and they have
developed a form of breakthrough to literacy in African languages in the early grades,
with a subsequent switch over to English.
To meet the needs of Curriculum 2005, commercial publishers have also been producing
new, more culturally appropriate early reading materials with South African content and
stories, and less restricted 'natural' language. These will hopefully eventually replace the
'Dick and Jane' type readers (with their largely alien, white, suburban content) which
many teachers who do actually have books, feel are necessary for teaching the 'basics'
(Bloch, 1999a).
With regards to the provision of appropriate materials in African languages, the situation
is complex. Several publishers have made tentative moves to produce African language
materials, but these have generally not sold well. Initiatives are also being taken by
organisations such as the Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) and the Project for the
Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) in Cape Town to produce
books and other materials for use with young children which raise the status of African
languages, encourage intercultural understanding and multilingualism. A branch of an
international book donation agency, Biblionef, has as its mission to provide literature in
mother tongue for children to schools and communities, which do not have access to
libraries. The work of Biblionef has both assisted with the problem and highlighted the
extent of the challenge. By gathering together available stories in the languages of South
Africa, we see that most of the stories available for young children are translations from
English. Moreover, many translations are inadequate, and there are sometimes mistakes
in the production process, leading to strange copies of stories with pages in two different
languages.
This issue is one of pivotal importance for language and learning. For a culture of reading
to grow, there must be good reasons to read and measures have to be taken at every level
of society to increase the status and uses of African languages as languages of print as
well as English
8
.
Conclusion
A point which unfortunately still has to be made as clearly and as often as possible, is that
it remains true in South Africa, as it is in so many countries of the world, that what is
lacking is the political will to re-channel sufficient resources to fulfil the requirements of
small children and the (mainly) women who take responsibility for them.
Having said this, one of the immediate challenges will be for us to avoid being sucked
into the widespread ‘phonics versus whole language’ cul-de-sac. Already, fuelled by the
lack of clarity in the new curriculum, there are signs that this is happening. It is essential
2
that teacher education in the early years receives urgent attention so that teachers are able
to make informed decisions about literacy and bi-literacy, how to teach and which
materials to develop and choose to support learning.
Another challenge is for teachers and family or community members to find ways of
supporting each other. Historically, parents have tended to leave teaching to the teachers.
Particularly in overcrowded classroom situations (which are not about to disappear), the
assistance of willing adults with individual and small group activities would be a great
help. Thus far this only really happens in already relatively well-resourced situations.
I have tried in this article to give some sense of a very complex domain which is in a
phase of flux and upheaval in an economic climate of extremely limited resources. Given
the constraints and challenges, it is heartening that the new Minister of Education,
Professor Kadar Asmal, has identified literacy as a key area. To achieve his aim of
eliminating illiteracy in the not too distant future, it is crucial that the foundations of
literacy learning of our youngest members of society are strong ones.
1
Early Childhood Development is a term used since 1996 to describe the phase from birth to nine years. It
was introduced as a measure to 'bridge the gap', between the non-formal pre-school years and formal
schooling.
2
According to the 1997 government statistics, 35,2% of 0-14 year old African children live in urban areas.
For ‘colouredchildren, the figure is 84% and for whites, it is 95,4%. In total, for this agegroup, 45% live
in urban areas. In terms of a total for the whole population, 53,6% of South Africans live in urban areas.
3
Although I am describing the past in this section, it is not an exaggeration to say that this is still very
much the situation that exists currently in Grade 1 and 2 classrooms throughout the country.
4
This is a well-respected pedagogical principal among theorists and practitioners involved in multilingual
education.
5
This action was taken to address the widespread problem of the large numbers of under-age children who
are in Grade 1 classes, and tend to repeat the year at least once but often two or even three times, adding to
the inefficiency of the system.
6
Many children with African home languages in multilingual classrooms are learning in English, a second
or third language. Often this means that no attention whatsoever is paid to their mother tongues, and the
resultant learning problems emerge in Departmental reports and in the theoretical literature as deficiencies
in the children, rather than as systemic issues.
2
7
This is a combined research project between PRAESA and the University of Cape Town and the
University of the Witwatersrand.
8
There are initiatives to do this. For instance, The Pan South African Language Board is a statutory board
set up by the government to promote and support multilingualism at all levels of society.
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... Oyun ve okuma-yazma eğitimi arasındaki anlamlı bir ilişki olduğu düşünüldüğünde(Saracho ve Spodek, 2006) küçük yaş grubundaki öğrencilerin çabuk sıkılmasını engellemek için oyun temelli etkinlikler işe koşulabilir. Velilerin eğitimin asıl sorumluluğunu genelde öğretmende görmeleri ya da tam olarak nasıl yardım edeceklerini bilememeleri sadece bizim ülkemize has bir sorun değildir;örneğin Güney Afrika'da da 1994 yılında yapılan köklü reform sonrası bu bağlamda sorunlar yaşanmıştır(Bloch, 2000). Veli kaynaklı sorunların hafifletilebilmesi adına, eğitim-öğretim yılının tercihen seçilen dönemlerinde velilere bilgilendirme amaçlı seminerler verilmelidir.Aynı şekilde birinci sınıf öğretmenlerinin de düşük yaş grubunda olan öğrencilerin gelişimsel özellikleri hakkında bilgi sahibi olmaları sağlanabilir. ...
Article
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Bu çalışmada, 4+4+4 eğitim yasası değişikliği kapsamında ilkokuma ve yazma eğitiminde, uygulama sahasında yer alan birinci sınıf öğretmenlerinin yaşadıkları sorunların tespit edilerek öğretmen görüşlerinin ortaya konması amaçlanmaktadır. Araştırmada nitel araştırma yöntemlerinden “fenomenoloji” deseninden yararlanılmıştır. Amaçlı örnekleme yöntemlerinden, “ölçüt örnekleme” yöntemiyle belirlenen 29 sınıf öğretmeni, araştırmanın çalışma grubunu oluşturmaktadır. Araştırmanın verileri 2013-2014 eğitim-öğretim yılında yarı yapılandırılmış görüşme formu ile, 2015-2016 eğitim öğretim yılının güz döneminde ise, ilkokuma ve yazmaya ilişkin öğrenci dokümanları ve yapılandırılmamış gözlemler ile toplanmış, verilerin analizinde betimsel analiz ile birlikte içerik analizi kullanılmıştır. Her soru müfredattaki düzenlemeler doğrultusunda sınıf öğretmenlerinin ilkokuma ve yazma eğitiminde yaşadıkları sorunları belirlemek için hazırlanmış ve öğrencilerden, ailelerden/velilerden, öğretmenlerden, okuldan ve programın kendisinden kaynaklanan sorunlar olmak üzere ayrı başlıklar altında değerlendirilmiş ve yorumlanmıştır. Araştırma sonuçlarına göre, 4+4+4 Eğitim Sistemi kapsamında birinci sınıf öğretmenlerinin ilkokuma ve yazma eğitiminde yaşadıkları sorunlardan bazıları şu şekildedir: Öğrenciden kaynaklanan sorunlar; Algı ve uyum sorunu, fiziksel gelişim yetersizliği, çabuk sıkılma, disiplin zorluğu, okuma hızının düşük olması, öz-bakım becerilerinin yetersizliği ve farklı yaş gruplarının aynı sınıfta olması; Programdan kaynaklanan sorunlar; uyum sürecinin çok uzun olması, 5 - 5,5 yaşındaki çocukların gelişimine uygun olmaması, ders kitaplarının sisteme uyumlu olmaması, öğretmenlerin yeterince bilgilendirilmemesi, programın uzman görüşü alınmadan uygulanması, ses temelli öğretimin dezavantajları, bitişik eğik yazıdan kaynaklanan sıkıntılar; Okuldan kaynaklanan sorunlar; eğitsel materyal, oyun alanı vs. eksikliği, sıra-tahta- lavaboların küçüklere göre olmayışı (aynı binada ilkokul ve ortaokul olması), kalabalık sınıf, derslik yetersizliği, idari/öğrenci dağıtımında adaletsizlik; Öğretmenden kaynaklanan sorunlar; yeni sisteme uyum sağlayamama, eski sistemde devam etme, aynı okul içinde zümre anlayışı olmayışı, sınıflar arası düzey farklılığı, okuma- yazmaya geçmede acelecilik, bitişik eğik yazı yazamamak şeklindedir. Araştırma sonunda bu sorunlara ilişkin çeşitli öneriler belirtilmiştir.
... However, as I will discuss in more detail below, the many African language speaking children who have orally oriented socio-cultural realities are in very different positions: often their first introduction to the peculiarities and particularities of written language is only possible at school. Faced with repetitive exercises that are not even meant to make any sense at all and with little if any chance of catching a glimpse of a storybook or any other sensible text (Bloch:2000), many children are not able to make the necessary associations to actually start reading and writing. At this time of impending change in South Africa, failure to be 'ready' was largely attributed to a lack of parental and family support and input. ...
Thesis
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This thesis deals with work I have undertaken on the theoretical issues and practical approaches that have contributed to the changes taking place in the early literacy field in South Africa, and, by extension, in some extent, other parts of Africa.
... A recurrent issue in discussion of African language publishing in South Africa is whether books originated in the African language or were translated from English. While the majority of books aimed at older students are indeed originated in African languages, many of the picture books are 'readers' targeted at young children and are indeed translations (Bloch, 2000;Kruger, 2009). Some observers are critical of this trend, arguing that it has a detrimental effect on the development of original writing and that the worldview projected in such books is likely to be at odds with the children's lived experience. ...
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Growing interest in bilingual education in sub-Saharan Africa has highlighted an urgent need for reading material in African languages. In this paper, we focus on authors, one of several groups of stakeholders with responsibility for meeting this demand. We address three main issues: the nature and extent of African language publishing for children; the challenges for authors; and the available support. Our analysis is based on interviews and focus group discussions with publishers, authors, translators, educationalists, and representatives of book promotion organisations from nine African countries and documentary data on children's books in African languages in South Africa. Although there is evidence of a growing interest in producing books in local languages, the number of titles is constrained by funding. The challenges for authors include the need to understand the ingredients for successful children's books and for the sensitivity necessary to negotiate the linguistic challenges associated with a newly emergent genre in African languages. Support, in the form of competitions and workshops, relies on external funding and expertise and offers only temporary solutions. We finish with suggestions for more sustainable ways forward.
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Significant challenges exist globally regarding literacy teaching and learning. To address these challenges, key features of how the brain works should be taken into account. First, perception is an active process based in detection of errors in hierarchical predictions of sensory data and action outcomes. Reading is a particular case of this non-linear predictive process. Second, emotions play a key role in underlying cognitive functioning, including oral and written language. Negative emotions undermine motivation to learn. Third, there is not the fundamental difference between listening/speaking and reading/writing often alleged on the basis of evolutionary arguments. Both are socio-cultural practices that are driven through the communication imperative of the social brain. Fourth, both listening and reading are contextually occurring pyscho-social practices of understanding, shaped by current knowledge and cultural contexts and practices. Fifth, the natural operation of the brain is not rule-based, as is supposed in the standard view of linguistics: it is prediction, based on statistical pattern recognition. This all calls into question narrow interpretations of the widely quoted “Simple View of Reading”, which argues that explicit decoding is the necessary route to comprehension. One of the two neural routes to reading does not involve such explicit decoding processes, and can be activated from the earliest years. An integrated view of brain function reflecting the non-linear contextual nature of the reading process implies that an ongoing focus on personal meaning and understanding from the very beginning provides positive conditions for learning all aspects of reading and writing.
Preprint
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Significant challenges exist globally regarding literacy teaching and learning, particularly in poor socio-economic settings in countries of the Global South. In this paper we argue that to address these challenges, major features of how the brain works that are currently ignored in the educational literature should be taken into account. First, perception is an active process based in detection of errors in hierarchical predictions of sensory data and action outcomes. Reading is a particular case. Second, emotions play a key role in underlying cognitive functioning. Innate affective systems underlie and shape all brain functioning, including oral and written forms of language and sign. Third, there is not the fundamental difference between listening/speaking and reading/writing often alleged on the basis of evolutionary arguments. Both are socio-cultural practices driven and learnt by the communication imperative of the social brain. Fourth, like listening, reading is not a linear, bottom-up process. Both are non-linear contextually shaped psycho-social processes of understanding, shaped by current knowledge and cultural contexts and practices. Reductionist neuroscience studies which focus on decontextualized parts of reading cannot access all the relevant processes. An integrated view of brain function reflecting this non-linear nature implies that an ongoing focus on personal meaning and understanding provides positive conditions for all aspects of literacy learning. Assessment of literacy teaching at all its stages should include indicators that take into account these foundational features relating reading and writing to neuroscience.
Book
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Two decades after the first democratic election, the patterns of inequality in the landscape of public education in South Africa persist. The majority of children living outside of middle class contexts are not learning to read, write and work with numbers at grade level in the early years of education. While the top quintile of schools in general meet curricular aspirations, the performance patterns of the majority of schools are relatively flat, with little evidence of independent reading and writing by the end of Grade 3. Despite intentions, our system of primary schooling (re)produces learning difficulties, resulting in significant learning delays and a massive need, yet to be met, for remedial education programmes for a large number of our children. The work of educational change is made that much more difficult by persistent poverty, unemployment and inequality. While the potential contribution of education to alleviating these socioeconomic challenges is frequently overestimated, it is hard to see how they could be resolved outside of a public education system capable of serving the majority of children. Framed by educational design research and focused on the universe of the rural foundation phase classroom, the study sought to better understand: a) instructional practices in rural and poor classrooms; b) the factors that reproduce them; and c) design principles that can be foundational in shifting practices. Amongst teachers, learners and parents, the work became known as the Magic Classroom Collective (MCC) – magic because teachers and children began to experience the magical acts of early reading, writing and mathematics. This report summarises the intervention experience, the lessons emerging from it, and implications for policy and practice. The first sections of the report describe the literature and formative work contributing to the study design. The points of departure combine three premises. First, ‘mother-tongue’ based bi/multilingual education - a system based on using a child’s strongest language(s) for teaching and learning - is the most effective strategy to build successful foundation phase classrooms in poor urban and rural South Africa. Second, the promise of mother tongue based bi/multilingual education is currently undermined by an educational knowledge project (in the form of instructional tools and teacher support systems) that is not well aligned to the linguistic resources of the majority of children, nor to their instructional contexts. And finally, the generation of an educational knowledge project more accountable to children’s and teachers’ linguistic resources and instructional contexts is likely to contribute to improved literacy and mathematics results, sustained over time, in foundation phase classrooms.
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In this paper, I contextualise the work of the Nal’ibali national reading for enjoyment campaign, by raising and discussing some major issues which affect and influence formal literacy education in South Africa. I acknowledge how a wasteful tragedy is unfolding for millions of children who cannot learn to read and write well enough to learn effectively. Building on PRAESA's two decades of work in multilingual education and literacy I discuss the campaign which we designed and initiated to help to create the conditions which support the growth of reading for pleasure in multilingual settings. I then introduce the work of Nal’ibali, which means 'here's the story' in Xhosa.
Chapter
Im Kontext internationaler Diskussionen und Initiativen stellt der Beitrag einige Grundsätze zur sprachlichen Bildung und Schriftsprachkompetenz in den frühen Kindheitsjahren dar. Diese Leitideen stammen aus Übersichtsarbeiten der aktuellen Forschung bezüglich der sprachlich-literarischen Entwicklung und Grundbildung. Darüber hinaus werden Anregungen für die Arbeit mit Kindern in frühpädagogischen Settings angeboten. Gleichzeitig werden grundlegende Annahmen über bestehende Auffassungen und Verfahren mit Blick auf Spracherwerb, Schriftsprachkompetenz und sprachliche Bildung hinterfragt. Der Artikel schließt mit einem Appell für intuitive und offene Ansätze zur Förderung des Erwerbs von Sprache und Schriftsprachkompetenz in den frühen Jahren.
Book
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This book documents my daughter, Chloe's early literacy learning and development as she explores writing in the context of her daily life. I discuss practical examples of her emergent writing, drawing on relevant theory and illustrating how her written language learning, like oral language learning, is all about personal meaning making and communication.
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In this article, I describe and analyse some of the literacy events and practices taking place in a selection of multilingual early childhood (Reception Class and Grade 1) classrooms in Cape Town. The work forms part of a larger multilingual education project being carried out by PRAESA. I use descriptions of my observations of classroom activities and conversations with teachers to discuss the views and understanding teachers hold about reading and writing in early childhood, and the methods they use for teaching children from different language and socio‐cultural backgrounds. My own perspectives about the literacy learning process as well as what I consider to be important research and theoretical insights in the wider early literacy debate are used to make suggestions for future developments in multilingual education in South Africa. This article was originally published internally as a PRAESA (Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa). Occasional paper.
Article
Illiteracy problems in Latin America cannot be faced successfully without taking into account what actually happens at the beginning of primary school. Almost all children enter primary school, but those from marginal sectors of the population repeat the first grades one or more times and leave school before completion. Nonpromotion and low retention constitute the evidence of a deeper problem. Traditional school practices make the beginning of literacy more difficult precisely for those children who are more dependent on school help. The present situation may be overcome on the basis of research results generated in Latin America as well as innovative pedagogical experiences to improve literacy acquisition. If failure at the beginning of primary school continues as it is, the children of today will become the low-literate adults of tomorrow.
Article
The increasing realization that family members can contribute to children's literacy development has given birth to family literacy programs designed to support immigrant and refugee families' participation in their children's education. Elsa Auerbach critically analyzes those family literacy programs that focus on teaching parents to do school-like activities in the home and to assist children with homework. She contends that the theoretical stance of these programs is not based on sound current research. Furthermore, she argues that in practice these programs function under a new version of the "deficit hypothesis," which assumes that the parents lack the essential skills to promote school success in their children. The author proposes a broader definition of family literacy that acknowledges the family's social reality and focuses on the family's strengths. As an alternative framework to program design, the author presents a social-contextual approach in which community concerns and cultural practices ...
Toward a social-contextual approach to family literacy Language Issues in Literacy and Bilingual and Multicultural Education
  • E R Auerbach
Auerbach, E.R. (1991) Toward a social-contextual approach to family literacy, in Minami, M. and Kennedy, B. P. (eds.) Language Issues in Literacy and Bilingual and Multicultural Education, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Falling at the First Hurdle
  • N Taylor
Taylor, N. (1989) Falling at the First Hurdle, Research Report No 1, Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand.
Language and Literacy Issues in multilingual ECD Classrooms
  • C Bloch
  • De Klerk
  • P Pluddemann
Bloch, C, De Klerk,G and Pluddemann, P. (1996) Language and Literacy Issues in multilingual ECD Classrooms. Unpublished conference paper.
Curriculum 2005 and outcomes -based education
  • Chisholm
  • T Petersen
Chisholm, L and Petersen,T. (1999) Curriculum 2005 and outcomes -based education, Quarterly Review of Education and Training in South Africa, Wits EPU Volume 6, No 1