Study: 81% of 10-Year-Old South Africans Battle to Read

Image copyright: Getty Images [via BBC]

The Facts

  • According to a study published Tuesday, which tested the reading ability of 400K students globally, 8 out of 10 10-year-old school children in South Africa struggle with reading comprehension.

  • The literacy of 9- and 10-year-old fourth graders in South Africa ranked last out of 57 countries assessed in the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), scoring 288 points compared with the international average of 500.


The Spin

Narrative A

The negative and dire consequences of the pandemic erased a decade of progress in reading outcomes and put brakes on the government's program to improve primary education. In addition, unprecedented disruptions resulted in severe loss of teaching time for children at a crucial stage of their developmental journey.

Narrative B

It's unfair to blame COVID, as multiple factors — including a lack of textbooks and libraries, inadequate infrastructure, and significant inequality between black and white students — are responsible for the longstanding education crisis in South Africa. The country has also been marked by the poor education imposed on the majority black population, who are partly illiterate and find it challenging to help their children learn to read.


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