Original Research: Food

The relationship between nutrition and the reading performance of Grade 4 learners in South Africa: Findings of prePIRLS 2011

Surette van Staden
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 32, No 1 | a399 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v32i1.399 | © 2013 Surette van Staden | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 March 2013 | Published: 30 August 2013

About the author(s)

Surette van Staden, Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The effect of nutrition on learner achievement has been the subject of many studies. Inconclusive evidence of the effect of nutrition on achievement and more specifically the causal relationship between nutrition and achievement exists, thereby emphasising the complex nature of the relationship. At national level, the Department of Basic Education invests time, effort and monetary resources in a National School Nutrition Programme in efforts to safeguard the health of South Africa’s poorest learners in attempts to make a contribution to their education. Against this background, this paper explores patterns in Grade 4 reading literacy achievement that is associated with teacher reports of learner nutrition by making use of the preProgress in International Reading Literacy Study (prePIRLS) 2011 South African data. Comprehensive teacher reports on the extent to which teaching is affected by learners’ lack of basic nutrition are presented, while teacher reports according to language group are also presented in attempts to gain better insights in patterns of achievement at a disaggregated level. Results for the current study support existing literature, namely that a causal link between nutrition and reading literacy achievement cannot be confirmed beyond doubt. National school feeding schemes should neither be discredited nor stopped despite the lack of such causal evidence. Such programmes could in fact be of value if realistic targets are set with a view to improved support for learners.

Keywords

Educational assessment; prePIRLS 2011; large scale comparative studies

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