Scielo RSS <![CDATA[South African Journal of Childhood Education]]> vol. 13 num. 1 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Foundation Phase teachers' knowledge on common visual problems affecting children</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Vision disorders are a public health problem as they cause a delay in academic progress and affect learners' future career. Teachers spend most of the time with children at school and can help in the early identification and referral of children with visual problems AIM: To evaluate the knowledge of Grade R to Grade 3 teachers on children's visual problems before and after educating them on the different visual disorders that affect learners in the classroom. SETTING: Low socio-economic status (Quintile 1) schools in Bloemfontein, South Africa. METHODS: Convenience sampling was carried out to include Grade R to Grade 3 teachers from 11 Quintile 1 schools. In this quantitative study, two questionnaires with nine items each were administered to determine the teachers' knowledge. A 45-min educational session on common vision disorders was presented by the researcher. The teachers were classified as having good knowledge if they obtained seven or more correct answers in each questionnaire. RESULTS: Thirty-six female teachers participated in the study. Most of the participants (72.22%) were in the age group of 36 years and older, and 44.44% had been teaching for more than 10 years. Thirty-four participants (94.44%) obtained an overall score of seven and higher before the educational session, and all participants obtained a score of seven and higher after the educational session. There was a statistically significant difference (p < 0.0001) between the scores of participants before and after the educational session CONCLUSION: The Foundation Phase teachers had adequate knowledge about common visual problems. The educational session was beneficial as it enhanced the teachers' knowledge. <![CDATA[<b>A critical multimodal discourse analysis of drawings to ascertain identity and self-concept</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Within the multilingual context of KwaZulu Natal (KZN), learners in Grades 1-3 are taught in their native language which is isiZulu. From Grade 4, English or Afrikaans becomes the medium of instruction. Yet, many parents prefer that their children be taught in English. It is the assumption that young learners' self-concept and identity affect English language learning and academic achievement. AIM: The study analysed the interplay between self-concept, and identity in Grade 1's literacy practices. SETTING: The study was conducted in a Grade 1 class in KZN, South Africa. METHODS: The study drew on Critical Multimodal Discourse Analysis (CMDA) to collect, analyse and interpret data. Four participants were purposefully chosen to participate in the study. Data were generated from children's drawings and online interviews RESULTS: The findings showed how learners' self-concept and identity were influenced by their family contexts, and feelings experienced in homes. This study suggests that primary caregivers and teachers create spaces for literacy practice to increase learners' self-concept and identity as speakers and writers of English. Using alternative communication strategies allow learners to (1) think more deeply about what they value, (2) gain an understanding of who they are in relation to their family members and (3) reveal what their cultural preferences are. CONCLUSION: The study argues that besides peripheral factors, including family, teachers, and the community, children's self-concept and identity are influenced by their experiences within their social sphere, including school. The study recommends further research to explore teachers influence on young children's self-concept as English Second Language speakers. CONTRIBUTION: The study's contribution towards knowledge is captured through CMDA to discover and understand learners' self-concept and identity as English language speakers and writers. <![CDATA[<b>Development and validation of a teacher awareness questionnaire about dyslexia</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects children of school-going age and exists in all cultures and backgrounds. Dyslexic children are deficient in phonological awareness, which makes the children to fail to attain the skills of reading, writing and spelling commensurate with their intellectual abilities. Inadequate knowledge about the nature of dyslexia by primary school teachers results in poor categorisation of at-risk children. AIM: This study sought to achieve two objectives. The first was to develop and validate the Teachers Awareness Questionnaire (TAQ), while the second goal was to use the validated TAQ to assess primary school teachers' level of awareness about dyslexia SETTING: Primary school teachers in Nsukka and nearby rural communities filled the TAQ and the Scale of Knowledge and belief about Developmental Dyslexia. Nsukka is called the university town and it is a slow-paced environment that is devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of most major towns in Nigeria. METHODS: The cross-sectional design was employed to gather data for the measurement process. Data were analysed using bivariate correlations and descriptive statistics. RESULTS: The TAQ has good internal consistency (r = 0.77) and an adequate convergent validity (r = 0.74, p < 0.01). Results also reveal that primary school teachers possessed low level of awareness about dyslexia. CONCLUSION: The study findings show that primary school teachers in Nigeria lack the requisite knowledge about dyslexia. The study suggests psycho-education for primary school teachers to empower them with information about the condition CONTRIBUTION: This study measured primary school teachers' level of awareness about dyslexia. The results showed that primary school teachers' awareness about dyslexia is poor, and this suggests that the use of labels (e.g., dullard) by some primary school teachers to describe their pupils may be incorrect. The study recommend to School Management Boards to take action to improve the teachers level of awareness about dyslexia, which would promote early identification of dyslexic pupils and possible intervention. <![CDATA[<b>Supporting teachers to develop formative assessment knowledge and skills in no-fee schools</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Formative assessment has been reported to improve learners' learning in affluent contexts. However, very few studies have reported the impact of formative assessment on teachers' knowledge and understanding in no-fee public schools located in a low socio-economic context. AIM: This article investigates the impact of the Assessment for Learning Capacity Development Programme (AfL CDP) on teachers' formative assessment knowledge and understanding pertaining to the five formative assessment strategies: learning intentions and success criteria, questioning, feedback, peer and self-assessment. SETTING: This study was conducted as part of the Assessment for Learning (AfL) in Africa project in one Gauteng district involving 20 Grade 3 teachers from six no-fee public schools. METHODS: Teachers in this study participated in the AfL CDP, implemented using the reflect, mediate, acquire and adapt, plan, prepare, present, support (ReMAPS) intervention framework. Baseline and endline data were collected using the formative assessment reflection exercises (FARE) before and after the AfL CDP, while t-tests were used to determine differences in performance. RESULTS: The results revealed significant improvements in teacher formative assessment knowledge and understanding across all five strategies. CONCLUSION: The ReMAPS intervention framework, applied in the AfL CDP, proved successful in supporting teachers to improve their formative assessment knowledge and understanding, even when implemented in challenging contexts, and provides a viable, practical model for implementing AfL pedagogical strategy by the Department of Education. CONTRIBUTION: This study adds to the body of knowledge by providing research-based findings about how an AfL capacity development programme implemented in a challenging context in South Africa, benefited teachers' pedagogical knowledge and understanding. <![CDATA[<b>Teacher awareness of psychosocial support available as per the Integrated School Health Policy in South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND: In 2012, the South African government initiated the Integrated School Health Policy (ISHP) to serve as a national guideline on providing school health and support services from key stakeholders such as the Department of Health (DoH), Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Department of Social Development (DSD). However, despite the ISHP regulations, publications report that teachers in under-resourced government schools are not sufficiently equipped to address their learners' psychosocial challenges. AIM: This study aimed to assess which psychosocial interventions implemented at the schools the school teachers are aware of. SETTING: A total of 50 school teachers from five under-resourced primary schools in Gauteng school communities of Meadowlands, Ivory Park, Alexandra and Doornkop-Soweto completed a feedback questionnaire designed by the investigators. METHODS: This descriptive study follows a quantitative descriptive design. A comparative descriptive analysis between schools using frequencies, percentages and graphs was used to analyse the results. RESULTS: Results indicate that a school teachers' ability to support their learners varies per school and is based on their school's compliance to training their teachers on the school safety protocols and is not affected much by external training. Schools that follow the ISPH regulations on teachers' training of protocols, better equip their teachers to observe psychosocial challenges their learners face. CONCLUSION: Despite the availability of guidelines, this study observes a gap in educators' observations of mental health concerns or external stakeholders responsible for non-physical assistance. CONTRIBUTION: Findings of this study provide feedback to all relevant stakeholders to assist in their future recommendations planning. One recommendation the authors of this study suggest may be that further studies explore if the lack of mental health observations is a result of poor teachers-student relations or a need for school teachers to be educated on learner mental health risk factors. <![CDATA[<b>Factors influencing foundation phase rural teachers' understanding and practices in selecting inclusive teaching strategies</b>]]> BACKGROUND: It is arguable that teachers' understanding of the roles of various stakeholders and their need to sometimes assume some of these roles influenced how they practice inclusive education that results in influencing the choice of strategies that they will employ in the classroom. AIM: This article presents factors influencing how foundation phase rural teachers practised inclusion during teaching and learning in ordinary classrooms. SETTING: The study was conducted in Limpopo, South Africa, from four selected schools. METHODS: Four foundation phase teachers were purposefully selected to participate in the study. Direct observations and supplementary data through individual interviews were employed to elicit data from in-service foundation phase rural teachers. RESULTS: The findings from the data revealed that teachers' current understanding of inclusive pedagogy is influenced by knowledge of inclusive pedagogical practices, professional development, reflective teaching and planning of lessons contents, which was found to be inadequate, whilst the absence of teacher development through workshops and lack of parental involvement and teachers being in loco-parentis is found to be another contributing factor. CONCLUSION: The study supports that foundation phase rural teachers should be capacitated and empowered through consistent teacher development workshops. Parents also need to be empowered on their support role in order to fully realise inclusive pedagogy in rural classrooms. Finally, the study recommends further research on teacher development and teachers being in loco-parentis in rural foundation phase classrooms. CONTRIBUTION: The study highlights issues of equality and human rights, which has a fundamental bearing on teaching and learners for both teachers and more importantly the learners they teach. <![CDATA[<b>Grade 4 learners with reading and writing difficulties in Mauritius: Oral reading and spelling characteristics</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Learners with reading and writing difficulties (RWD) are accommodated in Mauritian government schools without formal curriculum adjustment and teacher support. Little is known about their RWD. The aim was to describe the characteristics of Grade 4 learners with RWD. AIM: To describe the characteristics of Grade 4 learners with RWD. SETTING: Government primary schools in Mauritius, in urban and rural areas. METHODS: Grade 4 learners with RWD from 20 randomly selected schools were identified with the Screening Tool for Learning Disorders (STLD). A comparative design was used. Parents of 67 learners with RWD (research group [RG]) gave consent. Forty-nine learners without RWD were selected as a control group (CG) based on academic performance and consent. Hearing loss and visual impairment were excluded. The Clinical Evaluation of Language Function Observation Rating Scale (CELF-5 ORS), the Schonell Spelling Test and the Gray Oral Reading Test were used. RESULTS: The CELF-5 ORS showed a wide range of difficulties of the RG with speaking, listening, oral reading and writing. There were significant differences between the RG and CG with reading and spelling. Despite being in Grade 4 (mean age 9.0 years), the mean spelling age for the RG was 5.5 years, corresponding to a Grade 1 level. Positive correlations were found between the STLD and listening, speaking and reading on the CELF-5 ORS for the RG. The more likely it was that participants had specific learning disorders on the STLD, the worse the spelling. Those with a history of speech and language delay performed more poorly with reading and spelling. CONCLUSION: Difficulties were confirmed by all the measures. Diagnostic assessments for specific learning disorders are required to exclude intellectual disability and other comorbidities. There is a dire need for intervention programs for learners with RWD in mainstream government schools in Mauritius. Programs should include speech-language therapists and aim at prevention, identification, diagnosis and intervention. CONTRIBUTION: The study is important for speech-language therapists working in the education system and primary school teachers. There is a dire need to implement intervention programs for learners with RWD in mainstream government schools in Mauritius. <![CDATA[<b>South African professionals and developmental dyslexia: Knowledge, needs and perspectives</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Despite extensive research on the specific learning disorder (developmental dyslexia) - SLD (DD), many fallacies still cause confusion amongst professionals worldwide. These myths involve the characteristics, diagnoses and treatment of SLD (DD) and should be eradicated. AIM: The authors aimed to determine the knowledge, needs and perspectives of South African professionals working with children with SLD (DD). SETTING: A mixed-methods research design was implemented. METHODS: A survey study was carried out and a sample of 108 respondents was obtained. The respondents include speech-language therapists (SLTs), occupational therapists (OTs) and psychologists. RESULTS: Speech-language therapists and psychologists displayed better knowledge about the facts of SLD (DD), compared to OTs. Their knowledge levels were, however, not significantly affected by existing misconceptions surrounding the condition. The fallacy that SLD (DD) is caused by a visual impairment is still believed. An investigation into the professionals' perspectives regarding the identification of SLD (DD) suggested that South African psychologists were the most confident of their ability to identify characteristics. Nonetheless, all professionals reported not being convinced of their ability to provide a differential diagnosis of the disorder. Statements regarding management highlighted the uncertainties about the importance of addressing phonological awareness skills in treatment. Additional training needs were also identified as SLTs, OTs and psychologists generally feel unprepared to assess and treat SLD (DD). CONCLUSION: The differences identified amongst professional groups were related to the knowledge of the facts and characteristics of SLD (DD) and the ability to identify and manage the condition. Additional training needs should be addressed. CONTRIBUTION: The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the NRF for partially funding the publication of this article. <![CDATA[<b>The McKinsey's 7-S model framework for assessment of challenges faced by teachers of children with autism spectrum disorders in the Limpopo province, South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND: The number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is rapidly increasing globally and requires a supportive educational system to meet the needs of these children. AIM: The study assessed challenges faced by teachers of children with ASD in the public special schools of the Limpopo province, South Africa. SETTING: The study was conducted in seven public special schools in the Limpopo province, South Africa. METHODS: Face-to-face semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 teachers regarding the challenges they face in educating children with ASD. Tesch's inductive, descriptive open coding technique enabled the researcher to analyse and report, subthemes that emerged from this qualitative explorative and descriptive data. Measures to ensure trustworthiness and ethical considerations were carried out throughout the study. RESULTS: Analysis of the interviews revealed that the structure and systems of special schools do not support the educational needs of children with ASD. The strategic plans and policy framework on inclusive education are not being executed adequately. Learning for ASD children is not supported because of substandard infrastructure, curricula, lack of teaching material, health practitioners, unbalanced teacher-learner ratio, inadequate staff skills, school culture, shared beliefs and lack of management support. CONCLUSION: The study revealed challenges faced by special education teachers indicating the influence on the provision of high-quality education to children with ASD. The Department of Basic Education at the national level should monitor all special schools regularly, provide the necessary support and ensure that the complex needs of children with ASD are met. CONTRIBUTION: The study contributes to understanding of the challenges faced by teachers of children with ASD in providing high quality of education and affirm sound basis of advance information to monitor and evaluate the education of children with ASD in special public schools, which is within the scope of the journal. <![CDATA[<b>Student teachers' reflections on semiotics in Grade 3 isiXhosa literacy lessons</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Globally, teaching practice has been at the heart of teacher education programmes. For quality teaching and learning, literacy student teachers are expected to develop metacognitive attributes and critical thinking to integrate theory and practice. Because of the dominance of autonomous models in literacy teaching and learning nationally and internationally, literature continues to report poor literacy attainment, especially for indigenous language learners. Contrasting this deficit view, this article employed languaging as a lens to describe student teachers' reflections on their interactions with Grade 3 learners using multimodal and linguistic repertoires, which they both bring from socio-cultural contexts as well as utilisation of embodied representational modes. AIM: To explore how Foundation Phase (FP) student teachers used languaging and semiotic modes to enhance literacy teaching and learning in Grade 3 classrooms. SETTING: An Eastern Cape Institution of Higher Education. METHODS: In this qualitative study, four purposely selected FP isiXhosa Home Language student teachers used reflective journals to articulate their individual and peer classroom literacy practices. Data were thematically analysed. RESULTS: Findings revealed the importance of acknowledging authentic and diverse linguistic resources that learners bring from their socio-cultural backgrounds as well as the use of multimodal literacies in the classroom context. CONCLUSION: This study concludes that languaging allowed learners and student teachers to exploit multimodalities and linguistic repertoires that they bring from their socio-cultural backgrounds. CONTRIBUTION: This study demonstrates the pedagogical literacy strategies that created live dialogical engagements between student teachers and learners. These can be useful to teacher educators as well as teachers in the Foundation Phase contexts and thus improve literacy teaching and learning, especially in indigenous languages. <![CDATA[<b>The potential burden experienced by South African caregivers of children with severe intellectual disability</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Physical, financial, social and emotional demands placed on caregivers caring for their children with severe intellectual disabilities (CWSID) could lead to high levels of burden. AIM: This study aimed to evaluate the potential level of burden experienced by South African caregivers and aimed to identify possible contributing risk factors for increased levels of caregiver burden. SETTING: Online and community parent support groups. METHODS: This quantitative survey design study utilised data from 218 South African caregivers of CWSID. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used for analysis. Family is the main support for 67% of participants. RESULTS: Moderate to severe levels of caregiver burden were reported. No definite links between potentially contributing demographic risk factors and the overall level of caregiver burden were found. Caregivers of CWSID need to receive the required support from an early stage in the child's diagnosis to decrease potential caregiver burden and improve quality of life (QoL). CONCLUSION: Implications on intervention and prevention practices could inform the creation and implementation of a protocol to avert increased caregiver burden. Future research could be conducted to determine the implications of intervention towards CWSID and their family to decrease caregiver burden. CONTRIBUTION: The study provided insight into the burden experienced by caregivers of CWSID. This is in line with the journal as it further proves how vulnerable CWSID are and the support they should be receiving from professionals. <![CDATA[<b>Normal ranges for proprioceptive tasks in 6-year-old children in Mangaung</b>]]> BACKGROUND: A well-developed proprioceptive system is essential for motor control, muscle tone and voluntary movements. Sound proprioceptive development of young children can positively influence their motor abilities, while adequate movement abilities consequently form a strong foundation for young children entering the formal school setting AIM: This study aimed to establish normal ranges for proprioceptive tasks in 6-year-old children SETTING: This study was conducted in the Mangaung, Motheo district, including 10 schools from five different quintiles METHODS: One hundred and ninety-three, 6-year-old participants (mean: 6.46, SD 0.27 years) were included in the study, of which 97 (50.3%) were boys and 96 (49.7%) were girls. Five field-appropriate tasks were identified to establish participants' proprioceptive abilities. Statistical analysis was largely descriptive of nature, and normal ranges were established based on the interquintile range of each task, which represented the middle 50% of data (between the 25th and 75th percentiles RESULTS: Normal ranges were identified as follows: 6-10 successful repetitions for the Angels-in-the-snow task; 22-30 s for the Rhomberg task; two to three successful repetitions per arm for the finger-to-nose task; two to four successful repetitions for the shoulder-level-arm raise (both arms and preferred arm), one to four successful repetitions for the shoulder-level-arm raise (non-preferred arm) and correct identification during the force perception task CONCLUSION: Most tasks had a ceiling effect, and thus it is necessary for practitioners to use these established normal ranges of proprioceptive tasks for 6-year-olds to identify children with proprioceptive difficulties CONTRIBUTION: Proprioceptive difficulties of 6-year-olds can be identified using the normal ranges established <![CDATA[<b>Perspectives in eye-tracking technology for applications in education</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Many students struggle with mathematics difficulties, such as arithmetic problem-solving, intuitive geometry concepts and learning disabilities. Currently, there is an increasingly interesting in applying neuroscientific research paradigms to elucidate mathematical thinking and neural mechanisms that underlie academic achievement. On this matter, eye-tracking technology has been a valuable option for educational research. It provides a non-invasive and real-time measurement of participants' eye movements and pupil sizes during cognitive tasks. Moreover, the eye-tracker device is portable, allowing more ecological educational experimentations. AIM: Our main goals are to provide an overview and different opportunities for educational eye-tracking research to investigate mathematical thinking at schools. SETTING: This study was conducted in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo, Brazil. METHODS: This is a perspective article that briefly introduces the eye-tracking technique and describes its possible use in educational research. RESULTS: We present the popular measures and the trends of this technology that could enable educational practitioners and scientists to apply the eye-tracking system to benefit teaching and learning mathematics in naturalistic research. CONCLUSION: The eye-tracking provides insights for innovative approaches to promote evidence-based practices and new interventions through self-directed learning and metacognition skills that could be helpful in mathematics education. CONTRIBUTION: This article provides insight into eye-tracking system utility in educational research regarding the mathematics teaching-learning process. <![CDATA[<b>Early Childhood Care and Education in Botswana: Implications for access and quality</b>]]> BACKGROUND: The value of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is recognised as beneficial to the child and society. Research evidence on pre-primary ECCE access and quality in Sub-Saharan Africa is scarce. AIM: The aim of this article is to examine Botswana's pre-primary school programme in enhancing accessibility and quality of ECCE provision. SETTING: The study was conducted in 12 of the 24 primary schools implementing the pre-primary programme in a Gaborone sub-region. METHODS: Adaptations of the Levesque Access Framework and Woodhead Quality Framework were applied to this qualitative research study. Using semi-structured interviews, 11 pre-primary teachers, 5 school heads or Heads of Department, and 3 Principal Education Officers (PEO) were interviewed, and the data collected was analysed thematically. RESULTS: The findings suggest that the main barriers to the effective pre-primary programme rollout are supply-side and systemic. These barriers represent the public institutional environment (e.g. funding, inter-governmental co-ordination), policy design (e.g. the physical infrastructure delivery model, administrative barriers, enrolment policy), and programme implementation (enrolment practices, teaching personnel, learning materials, and assessment of learners. CONCLUSION: Although over 600 public schools have implemented the pre-primary programme, meeting the objectives of universal access, equitability, inclusivity, and quality remains a challenge in Botswana, as in many other African countries. CONTRIBUTION: The findings offer research frameworks and evidence for understanding pre-primary ECCE accessibility and quality. Further, the research has policy, programmatic, and practice-based implications for pre-primary educators and policymakers. <![CDATA[<b>Student teachers' preparedness to raise awareness about bullying among Grade R learners</b>]]> BACKGROUND: The prevalence of bullying in South African schools is alarming, and it affects everyone, including children in early childhood development. Teachers have a critical role in raising awareness about bullying to minimise its effects. This implies that student teachers need to be prepared to raise awareness about bullying. AIM: This study aimed to establish the preparedness of university student teachers to raise awareness about bullying among Grade R learners. SETTING: Using a qualitative approach anchored in a phenomenological design, data were gathered from a university in Johannesburg, South Africa. METHODS: Purposeful sampling was used to sample 25 second-year Bachelor of Education (BEd) Foundation Phase student teachers. In groups of five, students were required to facilitate an antibullying campaign to raise awareness about bullying among Grade R learners. Individually, the student teachers wrote reflective essays on their perceptions of their preparedness to raise awareness about bullying. Data were analysed thematically in line with Braun and Clarke's steps of data analysis. RESULTS: The study's results revealed that student teachers were not prepared to raise awareness about bullying because of the use of inappropriate activities, poor classroom management, poor planning and discord in students' groups. CONCLUSION: To ensure that student teachers are prepared to raise awareness about bullying, this study concludes that higher tertiary institutions should strengthen their training in raising awareness of bullying for student teachers. CONTRIBUTION: The study contributes to the body of knowledge on student teachers' preparedness to raise awareness about bullying in schools. <![CDATA[<b>Infusing 21st-century competencies into scripted foundation phase literacy lessons</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Despite large-scale interventions aimed at developing literacy skills, children's reading competence levels in South Africa continue to remain an area of concern. In addition, the need to prepare learners for the increased demands of a fast-changing world of learning and working is gaining attention in educational policy and practice. AIM: Using a qualitative multi-site case study research design, the authors aimed to explore teachers' understanding and enactment of scripted literacy lessons that are designed to promote 21st-century competencies SETTING: Five Grade 1 teachers were selected from four schools, three of which are in peri-urban and the other in a township area. METHODS: Data were generated in two phases across three teaching cycles. In the first phase, lessons were observed and recorded on video. The second phase consisted of stimulated recall interviews (SRIs) in which teachers commented on their recorded lessons RESULTS: The findings showed that when teachers had relevant prior knowledge of specific competencies, they were better positioned to leverage these as a basis for their lessons. However, the findings also indicated that teachers' entrenched methods and ways of thinking were obstacles for change. CONCLUSION: Training and development opportunities should pay sufficient attention to the practicalities of changing pedagogies and using scripted lesson plans. CONTRIBUTION: The findings contribute to knowledge on the affordances and challenges when designing training opportunities aimed at integrating 21st-century competencies into scripted literacy lessons. <![CDATA[<b>Executive function and pre-academic skills in preschoolers from South Africa</b>]]> BACKGROUND: While there is now considerable evidence in support of a relationship between executive function (EF) and academic success, these findings almost uniformly derive from Western and high-income countries. Yet, recent findings from low- to -middle-income countries have suggested that patterns of EF and academic skills differ in these contexts, but there is little clarity on the extent, direction and nature of their association AIM: This study aimed to investigate the contribution of EF to pre-academic skills in a sample of preschool children (N = 124; Mage = 50.91 months; 45% female SETTING: Two preschools were recruited from an urban setting in a community with both formal and informal housing, overcrowding, high levels of crime and violence, and poor service delivery. Three preschools were recruited from rural communities with household plots, a slow rate of infrastructure development, reliance on open fires for cooking, limited access to running water and rudimentary sanitation METHODS: Pre-academic skills were assessed using the Herbst Early Childhood Development Criteria test, and EF was assessed using the Early Years Toolbox RESULTS: Although EF scores appeared high and pre-academic skills were low (in norm comparisons), EF inhibition (ß = 0.23, p = 0.001) and working memory (ß = 0.25, p < 0.001) nevertheless showed strong prediction of pre-academic skills while shifting was not significant CONCLUSION: While EF is an important predictor of pre-academic skills even in this low- and middle-income country context, factors in addition to EF may be equally important targets to foster school readiness in these settings CONTRIBUTION: The current study represents a first step towards an understanding of the current strengths that can be leveraged, and opportunities for additional development, in the service of preparing all children for the demands of school <![CDATA[<b>'Failing to progress' or not being supported to make progress? Examining variability in reading</b>]]> BACKGROUND: By Grade 4, learners should be able to read fluently and comprehend reading materials at their grade level. However, many learners in Africa, particularly in the Namibian context, seem to go through the primary phase with poor reading skills AIM: This article examines the overall reading growth of Grade 5 learners, and then disaggregates performance according to grade age level and older Grade 5 learners in intervention and control schools SETTING: Data for this study were collected from four low performing schools in the Zambezi Region of north-eastern Namibia METHODS: Data are drawn from a quasi-experimental study in which teachers in intervention schools were provided with ongoing support over 4 months to enhance their content and pedagogical knowledge about reading, with the ultimate goal of improving Grade 5 learners' reading outcomes RESULTS: While reading scores were generally low across the schools, differential effects in terms of age clearly emerged. Significant differences emerged between grade-appropriate age groups (10 and 11-year-olds) and older learners (12-16-year-olds) in all the assessments, with older learners, expected to be cognitively more mature, showing the least progress. The results also showed better progress across age groups in intervention schools than in control schools CONCLUSION: The findings indicate that explicit reading instructional practices can lead to significant gains in reading even among learners showing low reading scores in poor schooling contexts CONTRIBUTION: This study contributes to the knowledge of the factors that influence reading progress and learning among children in low-performing schools in low socioeconomic contexts <![CDATA[<b>Using visual representations to enhance isiXhosa home language learners' mathematical understanding</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Several isiXhosa home language (HL) learners are excluded from meaningful mathematics learning because they are taught in English. Not only do teachers lack epistemological and pedagogical confidence in using multiple languages when teaching mathematics, but there are no mathematical registers for African languages that allow for adequate mathematical teaching and learning. There is a scarcity of research on what constitutes effective mathematics instruction for isiXhosa HL learners in South African language of learning and teaching (LoLT) Grade 1 classrooms AIM: The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Grade 1 teachers using visual representations to enhance isiXhosa HL learners' understanding of mathematics in the English- LoLT in Grade 1 classrooms SETTING: This study was conducted at four primary schools in the Western Cape's Metro East Education District METHODS: This study employs a qualitative research approach in conjunction with an adapted interactive qualitative analysis (IQA) systems method to collect in-depth data about current mathematics practices in English LoLT in Grade 1 classrooms. The data were analysed using John Stuart Mill's analytical comparison technique RESULTS: This study found that semiotics such as visual (and concrete) representations assist isiXhosa HL learners to grasp and understand mathematical concepts easily CONCLUSION: This study emphasises the significance of using sufficient visual representation strategies to enhance isiXhosa HL learners' mathematical understanding in the English LoLT in Grade 1 classrooms CONTRIBUTION: The outcomes of this study can make a positive contribution to current mathematics practice in terms of supporting isiXhosa HL learners in English LoLT in Grade 1 classrooms <![CDATA[<b>Predicting primary and middle-school students' preferences for online learning with machine learning</b>]]> BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to student psychological wellness. Because of isolation, lack of socialisation and intellectual and physical development from excessive media use, primary and secondary school students are at high risk for health problems AIM: This study aimed to identify the most effective machine learning model for predicting the offline and online instructional strategies students would choose during a pandemic SETTING: The study was carried out at a number of primary and middle schools in Hyderabad, India METHODS: We evaluated the data using machine learning methods such as logistic regression, K-nearest neighbour (KNN), decision trees, bagging and boosting using the Python programming language RESULTS: In this study, 414 instances were collected from different schools. Exploratory data analysis showed that few students chose online courses. According to the research, very few students choose online classes, and the majority of students favoured offline classes over online because of physical and mental health difficulties; online education effects include a lack of social and peer relationships that affects young children psychologically, and they may not be disciplined enough to resist internet diversions. Smartphones, laptops, etc., affect their vision, causing headaches and impaired eyesight CONCLUSION: The KNN was the most accurate machine learning algorithm, with 92.13% accuracy to fits the data to identify the preferences of online education CONTRIBUTION: This article examined the perspectives of primary and middle-school children on online education. Most students in this survey also reported experiencing mental or physical health issues that made online education difficult for them. Machine learning algorithms were applied to identify the most effective model for predicting students' online and offline study preferences. This machine learning method will help schools improve their course delivery methods, allowing students to continue their studies without interruption <![CDATA[<b>Exploring a contemporary picturebook with young readers in the foundation phase</b>]]> BACKGROUND: Given the ongoing literacy crisis in South Africa, there is a need for teachers, as well as teacher education programmes, to explore various means to enable learners to develop reading comprehension. This study sought to examine the intricacies of a series of small group literacy activities that hinged on the in-depth and repeated engagement with a contemporary picturebook. Furthermore, it aims to evaluate whether children can develop an affinity for these books AIM: The aim of the study was to explore the ways young readers engage with a contemporary picturebook by way of their oral and painted responses SETTING: The study was a qualitative case study, which took place at an urban public school in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg METHODS: The research design followed that of a case study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews during two paired readings, as well as a focus group discussion (FGD). Additional data were collected through children's painted artefacts and their subsequent individual interviews on these paintings RESULTS: The findings indicate that learners initially had superficial verbal engagements with the picturebook, which was complemented by more creative responses on further readings. Another finding was that the facilitation by the researcher and the interaction with peers improved the learners' depth of engagement. Lastly, the learners' initial basic descriptions of what was visible was complemented by a more nuanced appreciation of the aesthetic features of the picturebook CONCLUSION: Based on the findings, it is concluded that full depth of picturebooks and their affordances in classroom literacy programmes be introduced in detail to pre-service and in-service teachers in order to foster rich and meaningful reading experiences for learners CONTRIBUTIONS: This research functions to contribute to the limited body of literature surrounding children's reading experiences of picturebooks and overall learning specifically in South Africa