Foundation phase educators' knowledge and attitudes towards implementation of the National Reading Strategy
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In response to the alarmingly low literacy rates in South Africa and to improve reading instruction in schools, the National Department of Education introduced the National Reading Strategy (NRS) in primary schools in 2008. The NRS was developed for educators from grades R to 9 to facilitate reading literacy but foundation phase educators are faced with many challenges in implementing the NRS which include among others: teaching or facilitating reading in English in their multicultural, multilingual classrooms where the majority of their learners do not speak English as a first language; catering for different levels of understanding and proficiency in the language of instruction and reading within time-table and resource constraints; and adapting to changing curricula and requirements without receiving training to do so. In the absence of training, educators are left to interpret the NRS on their own. Recognising that the above factors impact on performance in the classroom this study investigated foundation phase educators’ knowledge and attitudes towards implementation of the NRS. Grounded within a social constructivist paradigm and underpinned by Vygotsky’s theory of the zone of proximal development, this study used a mixed methods approach to gather both qualitative and quantitative data from foundation phase educators and learners in the Phoenix-North region in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Questionnaires were administered to foundation phase educators to gather data to determine their knowledge and attitude towards implementing the National Reading Strategy. Focus group discussions were conducted with learners to establish the effect of educators’ implementation of the NRS on their “actual level” of development in terms of reading. Analysis of data revealed that despite a relatively positive attitude towards teaching reading, educators’ level of confidence to implement the NRS was low as many of them were teaching reading in their second language. In the absence of training workshops and professional development, there was conflict between educators’ existing knowledge and the requirements of the NRS. This study also found that educators’ knowledge and attitudes towards implementation of the NRS had a direct impact on learners’ reading progress as they are dependent on the educator for guidance and assistance within their zone of proximal development. Based on the findings, this study developed a training framework towards vi improving foundation phase educators’ knowledge and attitudes in order to facilitate reading and implementation of the NRS.