The country has been given a sobering update on the state of reading in schools. Nearly 80% of children are not learning to "read for meaning" by Grade 4. This means they cannot identify and retrieve explicitly stated information from a reading comprehension passage. This is according to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls), conducted in 2016 and taking in Grade 4 pupils from 293 schools. Testing was done in all 11 official languages, so most children were assessed in their first language. The latest Pirls results show that SA’s reading achievement is the lowest among 50 countries participating in the study. Most countries are upper-and middle-income countries — Morocco and Egypt are the only other African participants. In Morocco, 64% of children could not read for meaning, while in Egypt the figure was 69%. In the majority of countries, less than 5% of children could not read for meaning. SA also took part in Pirls in 2006 and 2011. The good news is that So...

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