ECD Pres- DBE - Impact Grade R on Learning Outcomes

The impact of the introduction of
Grade R on learning outcomes
BRIDGE’s National Early Childhood Development
Community of Practice
14 August 2014
Why evaluate?
“Development programs and policies are typically designed to change
outcomes, for example, to raise incomes, to improve learning, or to
reduce illness. Whether or not these changes are actually achieved is
a crucial public policy question but one that is not often examined.
More commonly, program managers and policy makers focus on
controlling and measuring the inputs and immediate outputs of a
program—how much money is spent, how many textbooks are
distributed—rather than on assessing whether programs have
achieved their intended goals of improving well-being.”
(World Bank)
Accountability on the use of public funds
Measure of progress and policy relevance
Increasing demand for evidence-based policy and governance decisions
Research & evaluation system
Monitoring & Evaluation units in government according to governments
mandate of oversight
– Overall in delivery of government programmes especially in concurrent functions
like education
– In review of current interventions or policies in key areas
Accountability for donor-funded programmes
National Evaluation Policy Framework through the Department of Planning,
Monitoring and Evaluation
– Government wide evaluation system focusing on priority areas
– An attempt to provide political principles and managers in government with reliable
information on service delivery “If we are to improve our performance we have to
reflect on what we are doing”
– Collaboration between Departments
– Reports to cabinet
The decision to conduct and release this evaluation therefore represents a
substantial commitment on the part of government – including the President
and the Department of Basic Education – to transparency and to the
improvement of service delivery.
Grade R evaluation background
In 2002 less than 40% of 5-year-olds in South Africa were attending an
educational institution. By 2011, this figure had risen to over 80% and it is
still rising.
Between 2001 and 2012 the numbers enrolled in Grade R programmes at
ordinary schools increased more than threefold, from 242 000 to 768 000.
This dramatic improvement in access to educational opportunities for young
children was largely thanks to the roll-out and rapid expansion of the Grade
R programme, initiated by national government.
The Theory of Change behind Grade R is that ECD lays a foundation for
cognitive functioning, behavioural, social and self-regulatory capacities, and
physical health. It is better and cheaper to intervene early
The impact evaluation was commissioned in December 2012 by DPME in
collaboration with the DBE (NEP Framework)
Evaluation methodology
The impact evaluation of the Grade R programme was conducted by
independent researchers at the University of Stellenbosch, and the full
reports are now available on the DPME website.
The evaluation included an extensive literature review describing the
evidence on early educational interventions from around the world. This
review highlights the critical importance of the early years of a child’s life for
cognitive, behavioural and social development.
The literature shows that early educational interventions prove more costeffective than later remedial interventions, and can reduce the educational
disadvantage faced by poor children. Constraint is distinguishing selfselection
This confirms that government has been on the right track in expanding the
Grade R programme and in doing so most extensively in poorer
Evaluation methodology
Key areas for good Grade R delivery in the literature were identified:
– Quality is key: a quality curriculum, a quality teacher, and a quality
response to developmental needs
– ECD provision based on pedagogical practice and not a “watered-down
Grade 1”
– Require active, child-centred, participatory methods that are difficult to
assimilate into the school system.
– ECD should lay a foundation for literacy in Grade 1
– A previous South African study found that 65% of Grade R learners
enter Grade 1 without the necessary skills or concepts to master
Evaluation methodology
It should be noted that the data analysis of the impact evaluation report reflects
the Grade R programme during the years of 2006 to 2011
The data analysis was completed through a new dataset created by merging the
EMIS masterlist of schools, the SNAP data on learners in each grade, and the
Annual National Assessments (ANA) of 2011 and 2012 that provide test
performance in mathematics and home language for Grades 1 to 6.
There were a total of 18102 schools in the dataset
The measure of ‘treatment’ was the percentage of learners in a school that had
attended Grade R. Treatment for a cohort (exposure to school-based Grade R)
is calculated as the number of children in Grade R as proportion of those in
Grade 2 two years later.
There may be underestimations based on learners that had left the school or
attended private ECD
Evaluation methodology & findings
Fixed effects at the school level were used to calculate impact (observing
the relationship within rather than between schools)
Impact is measured as the proportion of a standard deviation change in test
scores as a result of full treatment, i.e. full exposure to Grade R.
Exposure to Grade R increased mathematics scores in subsequent years
by 2.5% of a standard deviation, and home language scores by 10.2% of a
standard deviation (what learners should learn in 12 days or in 50 days for
mathematics and home language respectively)
Treatment has no statistically significant effect in lower quintiles, while a
significant effect of approximately 10% and 20% of a standard deviation is
estimated for Quintile 4 and Quintile 5 schools respectively in both maths
and language
Reviews of programmes in the United States had an average impact of
43%, while in Argentina this was 23%
Summary of findings
The study confirms the strategic importance of the Grade R programme in
our quest to improve education in South Africa, but shows that on average
the learning gains attributable to the Grade R programme have been fairly
small relative to what one might have hoped to see.
In some schools Grade R has contributed towards better learning, but in
other schools it has not. A low overall quality of instruction in some primary
schools together with disadvantageous home background factors may also
be working against the gains of Grade R provision.
Grade R provision provides greater benefits for mathematics learning when
implemented within a well-functioning education system, this is based on
the analysis of provincial groupings (Gauteng, Northern Cape and Western
The study also showed the utility of having systemic data such as the
Annual National Assessments for understanding the performance of the
education system
Recommendations, implications & responses
Grade R remains an important part of schooling, particularly in the South African
system where there are inequalities
With such a large and rapid expansion in a new programme, one would expect
there to be challenges with respect to the quality of implementation, especially in
the early years. Such an expansion requires extensive development of
infrastructure, the development and provision of learning support materials, new
curriculum development and enough suitably qualified Grade R practitioners.
These findings confirm that in Grade R, as is the case throughout the school
system, there have been significant challenges in ensuring instructional quality.
This is most true of the parts of the school system serving poor learners, as the
report also showed.
Now that access to Grade R is approaching universal coverage, the focus of the
Department will be firmly on improving quality.
An improvement plan based on recommendations from the report has already
been approved by the Department of Basic Education. The improvement plan
focuses on the human resource strategy for Grade R practitioners, curriculum
implementation and monitoring initiatives.
Recommendations, implications & responses
Dealing with quality
• Teacher training, quality and support received
• There has been an introduction of NQF standards for Grade R practitioners
• School management is an important contributor to learner performance,
focus should include in-classroom practice and instructional support not just
– focus on issuing basic competency standards for school management, and
district directors
– Focus on establishing norms and standards for Provincial Education
Departments in the various areas to clarify responsibilities
Practical curriculum guidelines and standards
From 2010, the DBE has been distributing Grade R resource packs to
schools, which include workbooks for each learner and teacher resources
such as teaching guides, posters and large story books to be shown and
read to the whole class
There has been an independent formative evaluation of Grade R resource
pack (pizza box) by ACER to evaluate the quality of the materials
Recommendations, implications & responses
Monitoring and data on ECD provisioning
It is essential to improve the data and knowledge base for the provision of
Grade R.
Agreements between the DBE and DSD to improve the knowledge base of
ECD centres in order to improve support and access to materials and other
good practices such as hygiene, food handling etc
Standardised school and district monitoring have been developed by the
DBE in support of using the same standard to measure provisioning. The
tools focus on management, coverage and functionality
The Annual National Assessments are beginning to equip parents to
improve their monitoring and accountability tools as well as provide
teachers with an instrument to assess themselves and learning gaps early
in the system.
Recommendations, implications & responses
The role of parents and society
Parents have a significant impact on learning in the home environment.
Campaigns on changing the culture of ECD at home and in small centres is
important for all stakeholder.
Provincial department are requested to lead this work and report to the
Minister on this on a quarterly basis. It also forms part of the discussion in
quarterly meetings between the Minister and District Directors
An important milestone was the release in 2013 of the National Curriculum
Framework for children from birth to age four.
Thank you
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