South African learner performance in international comparative studies remains persistently poor, resulting in questions about the quality of education offered to South African children across grades and phases of formal
schooling. In South Africa, grave concerns with regard to low levels of learner achievement pervade research initiatives and educational debates. Despite good intentions (such as policy and curricular reforms) and focus on implementation (such as
curriculum provision and teacher support), attainment (in the form of learner achievement) remain disappointingly low. This study draws on the preProgress in International Reading Literacy Study (prePIRLS) 2011 data, which places South African
Grade 4 learners’ results at 461, which is substantially below the international centre point of 500 (SE = 3.7). Results from the prePIRLS 2011 study are used as evidence of curricular attainment that has taken place at Grade 4 level across a
spectrum of 11 languages in South Africa. Benchmark results are further interrogated to provide evidence for possible improvement of curricular implementation at classroom level. Concluding remarks include reflections of how teacher practice can
benefit from evidence provided by international comparative studies.
Surette van Staden, Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, University of Pretoria
Department Maths, Science and Technology Education