Media Release
Minister of Education Donald Grant
Western Cape

28 February, 2011

WCED releases 2010 Literacy and Numeracy Results

Statement by Minister Donald Grant, Minister of Education, Western Cape

The Western Cape government firmly believes in the importance of systemic testing in the management of education and the improvement of learner performance. That is why this province leads the rest of the country in the use of extensive independent testing for Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners.

Standardised testing enables the WCED to identify problem areas and to undertake focused remedial action in the fields of literacy and numeracy performance.

Because of our belief in the importance of standardized testing, we have supported the implementation of the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). However, it is important to note that there are key differences in the testing undertaken by the WCED and the ANAs by the DBE.

Firstly, the ANAs are relatively new and are marked internally. The WCED tests are set and administered externally to a full cohort and are therefore truly systemic.

Secondly, it is clear from the implementation of the ANAs testing earlier this month that it will take time for the ANAs to be fully established and for their standard to settle. The Western Cape will therefore continue to use its own standardized tests alongside the ANAs.

Last year, in 2010, 243 502 learners in the Western Cape wrote the WCEDís standardized tests.

The breakdown of learners per grade is as follows:

  • Grade 3 - 78 495
  • Grade 6 - 81 402
  • Grade 9 (new test) - 83 605

Therefore for the first time ever, every Grade 3, 6 and 9 learner in the Western Cape was tested in the same year. This was an enormous logistical undertaking which was professionally administered by the WCED and outside service providers.

The Results

The results of the 2010 testing reveal that we are making pleasing progress in improving overall levels of literacy and numeracy in the province. This continues the improvement seen in the release of the 2010 NSC results and the 2010 ABET results, which revealed that the overall standard of education in the Western Cape is improving.

In order to properly understand the results it is important to note that it is only in Grade 3 that we will be comparing the results to test results in previous years.

The Grade 6 test, was extensively updated and improved (to reflect, amongst other things, changes in the curriculum). This is in line with international best practice.

Therefore, while we will release the comparative results in Grade 6 from 2009 to 2010 it must be clearly understood that these results were affected by the substantive changes in the test instrument.

Furthermore, while individual schools will receive the results of the Grade 9 tests, we will not be releasing the results for the consolidated cohort, as the Grade 9 test was a pilot and will be subjected to extensive review ahead of this yearís (2011) testing.

We will release the Grade 9 test results for 2011 next year once the test instrument has been properly and fully established.

The results for 2010 are as follows:

NumeracyPass %Average %
LiteracyPass %Average %

Learner performance has significantly improved at the Grade 3 level, most especially in the field of numeracy. The results achieved are also in excess of, or in line with, the targets we set in our strategic plan.

In 2010 we aimed to achieve a 40% pass rate for Grade 3 numeracy. Instead we achieved 48,3%.

In literacy we achieved 54.9% which is in line with our target of a 55% pass rate for literacy.

There are a range of reasons for this pleasing improvement, specifically in Numeracy/Mathematics.

These include the following:

  • For the past few years, schools and districts have focused primarily on improving the literacy performance of learners. Now, for last two years, Numeracy/Mathematics has been the primary focus of educators, schools and districts.
  • Some districts have, together with their educators, set appropriate level tests that are regularly administered every two weeks and have been used by all the schools in each circuit/district. This has enabled learners and educators better to understand the performance required by them and to practise answering tests of this nature.
  • Compulsory daily mental maths sessions have been instituted over the past two years.
  • The Grade 3 numeracy has improved from a low base that has shown only a small increase over the last two testing periods.
  • A focus on the protection of teaching time from any form of outside interference.

World-wide it has been noted that sharp improvements, such as the one experienced in Grade 3 numeracy, are possible with sustained interventions. However, international experience also shows that after such spikes performance often evens out or slows down.

Therefore, we will work very hard to ensure that we continue to strive for improved performance in 2011. We are determined to ensure that we achieve sustainable improvements over time. It is unlikely, however, that a spike of 13,3% experienced in Grade 3 numeracy will be repeated.

Finally, the lower rate of improvement in Grade 3 literacy can be explained by the fact that literacy has increased strongly over the last few years. Literacy is now at a higher base and larger increases become more difficult and will require sustained and focused effort.

MathematicsPass %Average %
LanguagePass %Average %

As stated previously the test instrument was extensively revised and changed at Grade 6 level in line with international best practice. The changes were designed to ensure that the test was reflective of changes in the curriculum and was of the right level of cognitive demand.

This means that the 2009 and 2010 results for Grade 6 literacy and numeracy cannot be accurately compared. However, it is clear that the overall trend also shows a pleasing improvement, which is largely a result of the factors listed above for Grade 3.

The positive trend is also far in excess of the targets we set in our strategic plan.

We achieved a 24.4% pass rate for numeracy versus the target of a 15% pass rate. In literacy we achieved 52,3%, compared to our target of 45%.


In the Western Cape we will continue to make use of extensive independent systemic testing in the years ahead. The results of the testing programme will also continue to inform our literacy and numeracy strategy, which as the results shows, is delivering substantial improvements in learner performance.

This year, we will pay special attention to the critical Foundation Phase of learning.

We are closely monitoring classroom practice in Grades 1-3, with a view to ensuring that the necessary building blocks in literacy and numeracy are laid.

We have also for the first time provided a mathematics textbook for learners in Grade 2 -7. We have also targeted additional resources into the Foundation Phase, including the allocation of teacher posts and the building of relief classrooms to reduce learner numbers in these grades.

We remain confident that with this kind of clear focus we will achieve sustainable improvements in literacy and numeracy in the years to come. We, however, cannot achieve success by ourselves and will therefore continue to encourage parental involvement in their childís education.

At the beginning of the year, The Head of Department, Penny Vinjevold, wrote and distributed, to all parentís whose children entered Grade 1, a guide on the kind of support Grade 1 parents can provide to ensure that their childrenís school careers are successful. In line with this advice we strongly encourage all parents to discuss with their children what they are doing at school everyday, enquiring about what they read and wrote and what sums they completed.

We would also like parents to engage with their childrenís educators concerning what they are doing in school to build these skills, and how they can help their childís educators.

In order to assist parents even further, we are currently reviewing a variety of report cards that may well be provided to parents on their childís individual performance in these tests. The viability and suitability of such report cards will be decided on only later this year.

Through the combined efforts of learners, educators and parents, as well as support from the WCED, we are confident that we will ensure over time that all the learners of this province will be numerate and literate at the appropriate level for their grade.

For enquiries, contact Bronagh Casey:  072 724 1422 or

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