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Title: A critical realist approach to literacy acquisition and development, with specific application to teacher traning and support in primary education in KwaZulu-Natal
Authors: Govender, Rookumani 
Issue Date: 10-Sep-2012
In adopting a critical realist approach, this study offers a view of the complex
social and contextual factors impacting on literacy acquisition and development
in primary education, which is thought to be its main contribution to the field.
The study‟s focus was on reading because reading is a fundamental part of
literacy acquisition and development in primary education. Its purpose was to
establish the state of current literacy teaching and learning practices in formal
education so that, ultimately, recommendations could be made for teacher
training and support. In the changing face of education in post-apartheid South
Africa, provision has been made by the government to democratise education,
and, in particular allow all students equity of access to key competences such
as literacy. However, there are signs that all is not well at the level of
implementation, for example, the low learner pass rate. In particular, teachers
do not appear to be coping with the new dispensation, and are generally
demoralised and demotivated. It must be stressed that the issue of literacy
acquisition and development is complex and multi-layered, and not just a simple
question of applying linguistic knowledge or skills. While literacy is a key
competence for schooling and a key life skill, education is an essential variable
in literacy acquisition and development. However, there are indications that the
South African educational system is failing to deliver quality education to its
learners. It has been estimated that illiteracy is costing the government as much
as R550 billion a year. The fact remains that the main responsibility for teaching
literacy rests with schools. Currently there is a literacy crisis in South Africa.
This means that large numbers of children are not acquiring the high level skills
in reading and writing that will enable them to take part in the new knowledge
The general aim of this project was to investigate the process of literacy
acquisition and development in primary schools. The investigation focused
specifically on how learners acquire literacy, and the involvement of teaching
training and support for educators. It was anticipated that the investigation
would identify gaps in the acquisition and development of literacy, as well as
provide recommendations for teacher training and support: the findings might
then feed specialist knowledge on the current state of literacy acquisition in
formal education into the area of teacher training as to address the problem of
lack of preparedness of teachers to deal with literacy acquisition. The project
involved an investigation of literacy teaching and learning practices in three
different types of public school in the Ethekwini Region, comprising ex-Model C,
semi-urban and rural schools. The scope of the study was confined to three
primary schools in KwaZulu Natal. The selected research sites were Joel1
Primary School (urban) in the Pinetown area, Milo Primary School The semiurban)
in the Mariannhill area, and John Primary School (rural) in the Ndwedwe
District. No attempt was made to generalise on the acquisition of language and
development, and the provision of teacher training and support at these
selected primary schools with reference to schools in the rest of South Africa.
However, it is thought that the findings might well be relevant to some schools
to enable them to cope and understand the role and function of language
acquisition and development.
The social factors which negatively impact on literacy acquisition and
development were found to include features of the local social context, security
for literacy resources and other physical challenges. Factors impacting
negatively on teacher performance were inadequate teacher training, the impact
of teacher unions, and the effects of poverty and HIV/AIDS. Some of the clearly
intertwined challenges experienced at the Intermediate Phase education level
include the problems of insufficient teaching staff numbers and insufficient
numbers of competent and trained staff; lack of sufficient support for African
language learners; large class sizes; lack of resources; and lack of quality
leadership in schools. These challenges are the shaky ground upon which we
build education for some of our learners, especially those in rural and poor
Thesis in compliance with the requirements for the Doctor's Degree
in Technology: Language Practice, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2011.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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