Review Article

A review of South African primary school literacy interventions from 2005 to 2020

Cathryn Meiklejohn, Lise Westaway, Ashley F.H. Westaway, Kelly A. Long
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 11, No 1 | a919 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v11i1.919 | © 2021 Cathryn Meiklejohn, Lise Westaway, Ashley F.H. Westaway, Kelly A. Long | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 July 2020 | Published: 19 August 2021

About the author(s)

Cathryn Meiklejohn, GADRA Education, Makhanda, South Africa
Lise Westaway, Department of Education, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa
Ashley F.H. Westaway, GADRA Education, Makhanda, South Africa; and, Department of Education, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa
Kelly A. Long, GADRA Education, Makhanda, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Learner performance in literacy in the primary education sector is in a state of crisis in South Africa. Whilst many more learners have physical access to education post-1994, the quality of education remains polarised along socio-economic lines. This article sets out to engage with current literature on literacy interventions implemented in South Africa in order to develop an understanding of the key features of interventions, which affect positive change.

Aim: This review provides an overview of the scope and type of primary school-level literacy interventions embarked upon in the last 15 years in South Africa. An analysis of some of the key findings on the impact of these interventions is provided.

Method: A systematic review was conducted using the key words ‘literacy intervention’ and ‘reading intervention’. The selection of articles was further refined with a specific focus on primary school interventions in South Africa.

Results: The review focuses on specific literacy interventions where ‘intervention’ is defined as active and purposeful engagement to improve decoding, vocabulary, fluency and/or comprehension of primary school learners. This article reviews the documented literacy interventions and draws out some of the key features of successful interventions. It also makes broader reflective comments about what this exercise reveals about the state of literacy interventions in South Africa.

Conclusion: Interventions have generally been ad hoc and uncoordinated and have not wrought systemic change. Moving forward in a coordinated manner must be based amongst other things on learning from interventions that have been reviewed here.


Keywords

Education; literacy; literacy intervention; primary schools; South Africa

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