Media Release
Minister of Education Donald Grant
Western Cape

20 January, 2012

Minister Grant announces 2011 Literacy and Numeracy results

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

PLEASE NOTE: Individual school and district results will only be out on the 30th of January


Literacy and numeracy are the most important skills our children will develop in their school career.

If we are to achieve our objectives of improving learner outcomes and the quality of education in the province, it is imperative that we develop and deepen the reading, writing and calculating abilities of all our learners.

This requires the identification of schools and areas where literacy and numeracy performance is both weak and strong.

In order to identify these areas and to determine what kind of remedial action is required, the WCED conducts systemic testing each year for Grade 3, 6 and 9.

We are the only province in the country to conduct standardised testing of this nature and we believe in its value in providing diagnostic assessment of the provincial education system so that we can improve the management of education and learner performance.

2011 testing:

In 2011, over 239 000 Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners took part in the tests.

The breakdown of learners per grade is as follows:

  • Grade 3 - 79 109
  • Grade 6 - 78 288
  • Grade 9 - 81 936

This was the second year in a row that all three Grades were tested, following a pilot in Grade 9 the previous year.

In order to guarantee the independence of the tests, the systemic tests have always been administered by outside service providers.

In 2011, we approached the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) to update and evaluate the existing testing instruments to ensure that they remain relevant, credible and in line with the curriculum and the changing school system in which our schools operate.

The Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) is an autonomous research unit within the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria and has extensive expertise and experience in system level evaluation and assessment, school level evaluation, test construction and evaluation.

Members of staff from the CEA have been directly involved in the Third International Maths and Science Studies (TIMSS), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), 2006 and 2011, and have contributed in various ways to systemic evaluations around South Africa.

After analyzing and evaluating the Grade 3 and 6 tests, the CEA identified various areas that needed to be expanded or improved upon in order to ensure that the tests instruments are in line with international standards.

Therefore, when interpreting these results, one must consider that there have been changes - specifically in the Grade 3 literacy and Grade 6 language tests.

One must also consider that the WCED systemic tests have a pass requirement of 50%.

Literacy and Language results:

In the Grade 3 Literacy and Grade 6 Language tests, the CEA felt it was necessary to expand the tests, as well as increase their levels of difficulty so that they are in line with international experience and best practice.

Because of the changes made, it is no longer possible to make comparisons between past Literacy and Language results and the most recent results.

Therefore, in 2011 the Grade 3 literacy and Grade 6 language results should be seen as a new beginning and not in contrast to the 2010 results.

The results are as follows:

Grade% Pass rate 2011
Grade 3 Literacy30.4%
Grade 6 Language31.5%
Grade 9 Language44.2%

The 2011 results will now be the benchmark for future comparisons. Schools, however, can still make comparisons regarding their own performance in relation to that of other schools by looking at the district and provincial performance ratio.

In terms of the Grade 9 tests, a pilot for Grade 9 was conducted in 2010, with the first tests being written in 2011. Therefore the results of the Grade 9 language and mathmatics tests of 2011 will also set new benchmarks for future comparisons.

Numeracy and maths results:

While there were slight changes made to the Grade 3 numeracy and Grade 6 maths test instruments the CEA indicated that comparisons can be made when assessing improvements within the system.

Therefore below, we have made a comparison with previous years. However, one must keep in mind that the tests were set at a slightly higher level.

The results are as follows:

Grade% Pass rate 2011% Pass rate 2010
Grade 3 Numeracy47.6%48.3%
Grade 6 Maths23.4%24.4%
Grade 9 Maths10.4%(No comparison)

Analysing the results:

Although we are unable to compare and contrast the Literacy and Language results to those of previous years, the levels of literacy at the Grade 3, 6 and 9 level are still, in our opinion, at unacceptable levels.

Learners are not reading enough complex texts with comprehension and are not writing long enough paragraphs. This is one of our focuses in the coming years.

In terms of numeracy and mathematics performance, we are pleased with the overall results of the Grade 3 and 6 testing.

In 2010, the numeracy and mathematics results improved quite dramatically from 35% in 2008 in Grade 3 to 48.3% in 2010. Similarly, the results in Grade 6 saw increases from 17.4% in 2009 to 23.4% in 2010.

Last year we noted that sharp improvements, such as the one experienced in Grade 3 and 6 numeracy in 2010, could result in an 'evening out' or a slowdown in improvement.

However, it is pleasing, that even with the more difficult tests, Grade 3 numeracy results stabilized at 47.6% and Grade 6, saw an 'evening out' at 23.4% from 24.4% the previous year.

The Grade 9 results of 10.4% did not come as a surprise given South Africa's ongoing struggle to improve mathematics literacy.

Steps going forward:

The results of the 2011testing programme will now continue to inform our literacy and numeracy strategy as we strive to improve these outcomes.

A key focus this year is on educator training and there are a range of courses on offer at the Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute that focus on developing teachers' knowledge and skills in the areas of language and maths.

We are also in the third year of an 8 year programme to train all primary school teachers teaching literacy/language and numeracy/mathematics. This year we will be focussing on content and teaching strategies.

With the introduction of CAPS in 2011, educators will now teach a first additional language from Gr 1. This will assist those learners who change to English medium of instruction from Gr4 to be better equipped to learn in that language and ultimately improve their results.

A large component of our strategy is to make our schools 'text-rich'. At the end of last year we provided to schools an extensive set of graded and appropriate reading schemes to enhance reading and comprehension in the Foundation Phase. We are very proud of our textbook rollout to schools, delivering for the first time, a Mathematics textbook for Grade 1. We have also supplied Maths kits and library books to schools in a variety of phases.

Another focus area is the improvement of classroom practice through the extensive use of workbooks. Our curriculum advisers are supporting this process and monitoring its effective use.

As we have become aware through our testing and research that learners are not doing enough language and mathematics exercises, we have indicated what is expected to educators and have developed monitoring instruments to ensure that the pace and scope are at the correct level.

This year, we will also be setting targets for the 2012 testing, so that we can test and manage progress in our schools and reward those that achieve their targets.

But with any intervention in literacy and numeracy, the support of the parents is crucial. They need to engage with their children's educators concerning what they are doing in school to build these skills, and how they can help their child's educators.

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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