Are South Africa’s children prepared for Grade R?
There is much anticipation every year around the publication of the matric (Grade 12) results in South Africa. These determine how well young South Africans have done as they leave school. But matric outcomes are based in large part on the skills these young people developed (or didn’t develop) before they even started school.
As much as we ask ourselves how well young people are doing every year as they leave school, we need to be asking how well young people are prepared every year as they enter school. While we measure the performance of our education system on the basis of matric results and we hold officials accountable on the basis of this measure we should be doing the same at the other end of the education chain.
Has South Africa’s early childhood development “system” enabled children to develop the range of skills they will need to learn and thrive within school, such as executive function skills (attention / working memory; cognitive flexibility; inhibitory control / regulation), fine and gross motor development, language and early literacy, basic mathematics concepts and social and emotional development?
To help answer that question, Innovation Edge has embarked on a project to establish a robust tool to measure early learning outcomes for children (aged between 48 to 66 months) at the period of transition to Grade R, a soon to be compulsory preschool grade. This Grade R Preparedness Assessment Tool, or PAT, will assess children against a set of Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) that should be achieved before entering that grade.
Early Learning Standards (ELDS) are defined as what children of particular ages and stages should know and be able to do. The primary purpose of the tool would be to assess the extent to which children transitioning to Grade R meet the expected early learning and development standards. The team chose to use this approach for the construction of the PAT because it allows the tool to be aligned with expectations for children’s knowledge and capabilities that are expressed in South African policy — in particular the National Curriculum Framework for Children from Birth to Four, which builds on the South African National ELDS. Importantly, it is also able to take into account the significant cultural, linguistic and class variations in the country. A similar approach is being followed by the Learning Metrics Task Force at UNESCO.
The developmental domains the tool will cover include: Physical Development and Self Care; Social and Emotional Development; Approaches to Learning (including Self-Regulation); Language and Literacy; Cognition; and Mathematics. The team will also explore the possibility of using mobile phones for data capture purposes.
Check back soon for updates on the team’s progress.