Improving Early Grade Reading in South Africa

Publication Details

3ie Funded Evaluation, PW2.10. A link to the completed study will appear here when available.

Stephen Taylor, Vijay Reddy, Cas Prinsloo, Jacobus Cilliers, Servaas Van der Berg, Brahm Fleisch
Institutional affiliations
None specified
Grant-holding institution
None specified
South Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa (includes East and West Africa)
System Reform & Capacity Building
Gender analysis
System Reform & Capacity Building
Gender analysis
Equity Focus
None specified
Evaluation design
Randomised Control Trials (RCT)
Ongoing 3ie Funded Studies
3ie Funding Window
Policy Window Round 2


This study will used a randomized-control methodology to identify the causal impacts – effectiveness and cost-effectiveness -- of three different approaches to improving Grade 1 reading ability in South Africa. The three treatments will be implemented over a two year period, with three waves of data collection: a baseline survey in January or February 2015, a midline survey in November 2015, and an endline survey in November 2016. 

These findings can therefore inform scale-up plans. To this end, researchers will measure teacher and parental behaviour, teaching knowledge in reading pedagogy, teacher absenteeism, and teacher activity as captured by student completion of workbooks.

About this impact evaluation

In twenty years of democracy, South Africa has made great strides in primary education enrolment, achieving near universal primary school enrolment across provinces. Unfortunately, this achievement has not translated into learning outcomes and the Government of South Africa has declared education its top priority. At the behest of the Department of Basic Education (DBE), a research team of South African and international researchers working with the Human Sciences Research Council (HCSR) are evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of approaches to improve early grade reading. 

The DBE is integrally involved in the design and implementation of this project and will consider ways to take forward the findings from this project. The treatment designs are based on existing ‘best practices’ (not yet properly evaluated) along with innovative approaches under consideration within South Africa’s provincial and national education departments. Two treatments focus on the supply-side of teacher competence and motivation, while the third focuses on the parental demand-side for effective teaching.

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