Education in the foundation phase is crucial, but 63% of children do not attend preschool in SA

Stats SA recently released their general household survey revealing 63% of children do not attend a day care centre, créche, early childhood development centre, nursery school or pre-primary school to focus on school readiness.

And after the controversial proposal by the Department of Basic Education to enforce a no repeat policy for grade R to 3 because it makes no “educational sense” and learners gain “absolutely nothing” (the Department's words, not ours), we fear for the level of education in South Africa.


Read more here: The Department of Education’s proposed no repeat policy for grade R to 3 will do more harm than good to the state of education in SA


Of the learners aged 0-4 years accounted for, 37% attend an educational institution, while 63% do not. 

Concerningly, the stats also show that there is still a big education gap between races, with a significantly greater percentage (proportionally) of white and indian/asian children attending institutions, than coloured and black children. 

Stats SA Chief Director, Isabelle Schmidt, told SABC News, many children aged 0-4 years are not exposed to early childhood stimulation due to socio-economic factors.


Also read: 50% of children have never read a book with their parents – here's why we need to encourage reading early on


Pre-primary school is essential for school readiness 

While many may not feel a focus on education at such a young age is necessary, experts have weighed in saying we need to stimulate children to ensure school readiness for when they do start grade R.

Creative parenting expert, Nikki Bush, says the no repeat policy has been proposed as a “quick fix solution” to our current incredibly high repetition rate in grade 1, but the actual solution lies in ensuring children have a strong basis after attending an early development centre, such as a pre-primary school. 

“If you think about a wall,” she says, “if it is missing certain bricks in the foundation... ultimately, that wall will fall down.” 


Also read: South Africa’s main parties all have plans for education. What’s missing?

We were overwhelmed by the responses we got from both parents and teachers on the no repeat policy – all of which agreed with Bush, and completely refuted the claims made by the Department. 

A foundation phase teacher in Brakpan, Gauteng, told Parent24 she’s seen the positive difference repeating a grade can have on learners. 

“I have seen the way children gain knowledge when they repeat a year, especially in Grade 1 and 2. It is the foundation that is laid in those 2 years that makes a big impact, specifically with regard to reading skills, vocabulary and other language skills. Mathematically, skills that they could not grasp the previous year, most of them grasp in the repetition year.    
Due to the high workload Grade 4 learners have, there is no time for repetition or enhancement of skills they didn’t master in the foundation phase.  
I have witnessed learners who failed with Level 1s and 2s and the next year they have 5s and 6s on their report cards – keeping those marks when they progress to the higher grades.” 

Another of our readers reiterated the importance of early childhood development and getting a proper and solid foundation phase education. 

Colleen had much of the same concerns we did: if a child is struggling to understand the curriculum early on, not addressing these delays and simply pushing them through, will only result in them failing in higher grades. 

“To have to repeat a grade at a higher grade due to a shaky foundation, is when things can really start falling apart for a child, especially emotionally, and 'catching-up' is a massive task for everyone. The jump between Grade 3 and 4 is fairly huge for any child, let alone one who is already struggling to keep up."

Echoing our initial sentiment, she concluded bluntly “The education plot continues to circle the drain...” 

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