2022 Reading Panel press release

Apr 10, 2024

Download the full press release here

2 February 2022 (8am)

The inaugural 2030 Reading Panel, chaired by Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, calls for “fundamental reforms” to ensure that all children read for meaning by age 10 by 2030. Currently 78% of children cannot read for meaning.

At current rates of progress it will take 80 years before all children learn to read in SA.

2 February 2022 – The 2030 Reading Panel is a civil society initiative of the former deputy President Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and aims to ensure that by 2030 South Africa reaches the goal set out by President Ramaphosa, that all children will read for meaning by age 10 by 2030. The panel is made up of 18 eminent South Africans and includes those from academia, NGOs, business and faith communities, including Prof Njabulo Ndebele, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Bobby Godsell, Michael Sachs, Elinor Sisulu and Jay Naidoo.

The 1st of February 2022 was the inaugural Reading Panel attended by 100 delegates from government, business and civil society. This is the first annual meeting of the panel, who will continue to meet once a year every year until 2030 to monitor progress towards the goal of all children reading for meaning by 2030. The Secretary of the Panel, Prof Nic Spaull, presented the 2022 Background Report summarising the main challenges to reaching the 2030 goal, including challenges regarding initial teacher education, teacher retirements, funding and COVID-19 learning losses.

The main new findings presented in the background report released on 1 February 2022 were:

  1. SA 10-year-olds in 2021 know less than SA 9-year-olds before the pandemic: Due to rotational timetables and school closures in 2020 and 2021 children in South Africa have lost 1,3 years of learning.
    New assessments show that children in Grade 4 in 2021 knew less than children in Grade 3 in 2018.
  2. Half of teachers (45%) will retire in the next 10 years – this is ‘unprecedented’ and currently there is no plan to address this wave of retirements. The report showed that due to the aging of public school teachers there is a bulge of teachers about to reach retirement age (60). It will require universities to increase teacher production from 26,000 in 2018 to 44,000 by 2025 to 50,000 by 2030.
  3. Before the pandemic South Africa’s education system was improving slowly but steadily: The report showed that for children who were enrolled in Grade 1 from 1994 onwards, their reading and mathematics outcomes were consistently improving, although levels were still low.
  4. On SA’s current trajectory it will take 80 years before all 10 year olds can read for meaning: Although President Ramaphosa committed his administration to ensuring that by 2030 all 10 year olds will read for meaning, on current projections only 36% will be able to read for meaning by 2030 (currently only 22% of 10 year olds can read for meaning in any language).
  5. University B.Ed students scored 50% on primary school maths test: Assessments of primary school mathematics teachers showed that first year B.Ed students across three universities scored 52% on a primary school maths test and final year B.Ed students scored 54%. The panel called for an audit of university programs training primary school teachers.
  6. Current reading plans are “slogans” because they lack funding: The report showed that most of the DBE’s current plans for reading were primarily slogans (“Read to Lead”, “Drop All and Read”, President’s Virtual Reading Circle) and there was currently “negligible” budget allocated to reading.

Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka called on each panellist and each of the 100 delegates to take responsibility for finding a solution to the different areas that have been identified for improvement: “Although schooling is primarily the responsibility of government, we all have a role to play here. Business, civil society, we all need to come together to tackle this issue”

The four recommendations from the background report were:

  1. Establishing a universal external Grade 2 assessment of reading.
  2. Moving from slogans to budgets. It was estimated that government would need to spend R1,3-billion per year to provide high-quality reading materials and support to teachers
  3. Providing a standard minimum set of reading resources to all Foundation Phase classrooms (Grade R-3) as a matter of urgency.
  4. A university audit of preservice teacher education programs.

The full background report is available here and more information is available on the reading panel website: https://www.readingpanel.co.za/