Name of organisation: Department of Basic Education
Name of Project/Intervention: Early Grade Learning Study (EGRS)
Duration of Project: 2015 to 2017
Geographical area of the project: North West province
This Project forms a part of Zenex’s portfolio of Literacy interventions and research initiatives in line with the 2014 - 2018 Five-year Strategy.
The EGRS entails the implementation and evaluation of three different intervention models of improving literacy in Foundation Phase Setswana in the North West Province. Specifically, the initiative focuses on the impact and cost effectiveness of the three models planned to start in 2015 and conclude at the end of 2017.
• Model 1: A structured teacher programme delivered through centralised training. Teachers receive lesson plans aligned to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), quality graded reading materials for learners and two-day centralised training workshops twice per year
• Model 2: A structured teacher programme delivered through cluster training and on-site coaching. Teachers receive lesson plans aligned to the CAPS, quality graded reading materials for learners, and small cluster training and on-site coaching (an average of one cluster session per term and two coaching sessions per teacher per term)
• Model 3: This intervention provides support to parents. It comprises weekly meetings with parents with the aim of promoting the importance of reading in the home and offered parents some concrete practical strategies to support their children.
• The Project uses a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative with qualitative data collection strategies. Specifically the study uses a Randomised Control Trial (RCT) complemented with a 60-classroom observation study and eight detailed case studies
• Whilst the RCT and 60-classroom observation was conducted in both intervention and control schools, the case studies were only conducted in the intervention schools. This design is intended to enable the evaluators to establish the impact of each intervention model on learner performance as well as understand where, how and why different elements of the intervention models are working
• The EGRS is being implemented in 230 Quintile 1 - 3 schools: 150 in the intervention schools (50 schools for each of the three different models) and 80 control schools.
Key findings of the Midline Report
• Overall, Model 2 showed significant impact on learner performance as compared to Model 1 or 3. Even though there is improved learner performance, this improvement is not yet at the grade appropriate levels
• Model 2 learners are approximately 40% of a year of learning ahead of the learners in the control schools that received no intervention. This model showed an increase in performance in all categories of literacy measured
• The Model 1 intervention delivered through centralised training is showing a small positive impact in some sub-tests
• The Model 3 intervention that provides support to parents is showing no significant impact on the overall performance of learners in literacy. The study did not sufficiently engage with the reasons why the parent programme did not work
• Schools in urban areas gained most from the interventions, while those in rural areas gained the least. Similarly, middle to top learners gained most from the intervention
• Relatively large classes (35 - 48) benefited most in both model 1 and model 2 intervention, but very large classes did not benefit from the intervention. However, it must be noted that the impact of the Project was minimal on very large classes of 50 plus
• Teachers in both Model 1 and 2 interventions reflected improvement in planning and curriculum compared to control schools
• Teachers in the Model 2 intervention showed more evidence of changing their teaching practices
• The study suggests that while the routines were improved, the quality of some of the literacy teaching approaches continued to be a challenge
• While the parent intervention was the most cost effective, Model 2 (the coaching model) provided the most learning gains. The study suggests that the learning gains from the other models were insufficient and not significant enough to be considered as a viable option for improving learner performance.
The Project is in its last year of implementation and will submit its final report in January 2018. The Project can provide important insights into the trajectory of learners as they move from Grade 1 to Grade 3 and contribute to a better understanding of how learners make the shift from ‘learning to read to reading to learn’.