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Over the period 2016 to 2018, RESEP were engaged in a study titled “Leadership for Literacy” funded by the ESRC/DFID. The project resulted in the collection of new data on reading in three African languages. In this research impact brief published by the REAL Centre, University of Cambridge, and The Impact Initiative, the impact of this work to establish tentative benchmarks in African languages is highlighted. The brief is summarised as follows:
“To better understand early grade reading in African languages, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town, the University of South Africa and Funda Wande, together with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in South Africa, are working towards a deeper understanding of higher reading gains in English and three African languages… This research is contributing to the development of national reading benchmarks in indigenous languages, leading to deeper understanding of how proficiency in African languages can contribute to improved literacy” (brief available here).
Through additional follow-on funding recently awarded by the ESRC as well as the support of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment we will be working with linguists, department officials and Funda Wande to extend our work on reading benchmarks and the analysis of reading trajectories. There is a growing impetus within government, and particularly the Department of Basic Education, to establish reading benchmarks in response to new presidential priorities to improve early grade reading. We hope to contribute further to these efforts and consider it a privilege to work with a talented and diverse team of people who are passionate about seeing new standards for reading proficiency emerge in South Africa.