08 February 2011
LACK OF READING SKILLS HAMPERS PLE PERFORMANCE
Last November, eight of our students sat for Primary Leaving Examinations at Nadangila Primary School. Our students sit their final exams there. Few of us had any hopes that any of our students would pass. Of the 8 pupils who sat for the exams, the best three passed in second division and the rest in third division. There were no failures! (in the picture is there Headteacher,Teddy at the farewell party organized for them-SPACC PLE LEAVERS)
Research shows that poor PLE results is strongly linked to poor reading skills. In most parts of central and northern Uganda, thousands of pupils are helpless when faced with exams, as they neither understand the questions nor do they have the ability to write the correct answers.
There is what is called “thematic curriculum” that started five years ago. This curriculum is aimed at teaching pupils in their local language from primary one to four, and then they switch to English. It has been found that pupils who start their primary education in their mother tongue have a better chance of improving their reading skills if they get good teachers to help them with the transition to English in primary four. However, there is always the challenge of funding for training teachers to manage the transition because most teachers admit they did not receive any training. The first pupils studying under the thematic curriculum will be starting their primary five classes this year.
Most critically, it has been revealed that reading skills are so low, with children remaining virtually illiterate even after three years in school. When asked to read a simple passage at P2 level, nearly 70% of children could not do so successfully. When it comes to reading comprehension, scores are extremely low, with nearly 90% of children scoring zero on the comprehension task.
It’s been noted that the lack of reading materials is a major hindrance to reading development. One can barely find textbooks for literacy class, in either P2 or P3. It shows that children are learning to read without materials to refer to or learn from which is far from ideal.
We recommend that we get support to include new initiatives in encouraging reading in class, as well as teaching formal comprehension techniques and setting literacy benchmarks. We also recommend that mother tongue assessments should be included at the end of primary examinations and a new focus on teacher professional development.
A child who goes to school everyday and ends up illiterate or semi-literate will not only experience self-esteem problems, but will also develop a negative attitude towards school. As a result, some of them drop out of school. Reading is not being taught properly as a subject and as a result, pupils in middle primary are finding it hard to understand what they are taught.
We are requesting all sorts of support from our contacts and collaborators to remain committed to this reading initiative and also to carry out a follow-up until the pupils complete their primary school learning.