RESEP is engaged in a 3-year project (2022-24) to track learning losses, repetition, dropout and school completion patterns among school cohorts impacted by COVID-19 disruptions to schooling and learning. The project titled “COVID Generation” is funded by Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy.
In this 2022 COVID Generation report, we review what we know about learning losses and other schooling impacts in South Africa after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020 and 2021) drawing on new analysis and existing research. Four major trends have emerged as a result of the pandemic. First, there were large learning losses in the Western Cape province and in reading skills (46-118% of a year of learning) among Grade 2-4 learners in no-fee school samples. Second, there is evidence of widening of already high levels of learning inequality. Third, as an unexpected trend, dropping out declined during the pandemic at the secondary level with large commensurate increases in school enrolment. Fourth, an unprecedented rise in candidates writing the National Senior Certificate (NSC) and achieving a Bachelors-level pass occurred in 2021, related to very large increases in Grade 11 promotion rates in a context of COVID-19 adjusted assessment and promotion practices. With twin pandemic shocks of learning losses and enrolment increases, remediating losses and realigning progression rules to effective assessment practices must be prioritised.