President Cyril Ramaphosa proposed in his state of the nation address to provide for two reception years at school, yet as things stand grade R has almost no benefit for SA’s poor children. The department of basic education’s national assessment of grade R found that its impact for the poorest three quintiles demonstrated “no measurable impact”. So what value can we expect from adding a second year? Here’s what we need to do to solve that challenge: To start off, having two reception years is really not a bad idea. Evidence suggests that two years of high-quality preschool programmes are better than one. Children who attended early childhood development (ECD) programmes for two or more years scored significantly higher in grade 5. But whose scores are those? A four-year-old from a poor household has a 50% chance of being enrolled in an ECD programme, while children from wealthy homes have a much more respectable 90% chance. A recent survey found that 58% of a nationally representati...

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