The 3Rs Project Improving the quality of education: the literacy and numeracy challenge

The 3Rs Project Improving the quality of education: the literacy and numeracy challenge

South Africa has made considerable advances in its quest for attaining quality education.

A wide range of policies have been put in place, including new curricula, to meet the needs of a post-apartheid society in the 21st century.

Of concern is that changes in policy have not resulted in significant improvement in learner performance. There is a growing consensus among policy makers and experts that, although South Africa has well-established education and other policies, effective implementation remains a challenge. This has ramifications for improving learner performance, particularly as it relates to literacy and numeracy.

Within this context, in 2006 the Education Policy Consortium (EPC), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), JET Education Services, and the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), with the support of the Department of Education (DoE), formed a research consortium to explore the various dimensions of the literacy and numeracy challenge in South African schools with a view to arriving at specific recommendations or options and establishing models of good practice as contributions to improving the quality of education.

The results of this five-year project, known as the 3Rs project, funded by the Royal Netherlands Government (RNE), is presented in the following section of the HSRC Review, grouped together under four themes.

Each theme consists of different research studies, each highlighting different aspects of the findings. The full report will be made available on and on the 3Rs website at in October 2011.

Assessment plays a prominent role in educational reform because of the desire to initiate improvements of standards in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, and to measure what has been attained. Measurement of educational reform will be easier to achieve if assessment is tied to standards.

It is increasingly acknowledged, both internationally and in South Africa, that assessment has a direct influence on teaching and learning, and that this power can be harnessed and directed to achieve positive impact.

The studies under this theme were designed to develop – and pilot – an integrated national assessment system that could provide relevant and timely information that all interested parties could apply to improve the decisions made on all levels of the schooling system; in other words, in the classroom, schools, districts, provinces and nationally.

The goal was also to develop and pilot classroom assessment resources, and to implement the Grade 9 Systemic Evaluation Study by modifying and piloting a systems model for monitoring the education system.

Three articles based on the study, Enhancing teaching and learning in South African schools through assessment: challenges and possibilities, are presented on the following articles: