The Nature and Prevalence of Reading and Writing difficulties in grade two under the Primary Reading Programme: The Case of Twelve Basic Schools in the Northern Province of Zambia

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Mubanga, Ebby
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature and prevalence of reading and writing difficulties and factors responsible for these difficulties in English language in Grade Two under the Primary Reading Programme.A survey design was used in conducting this research. Data was collected through tests for pupils, a questionnaire for Grade Two teachers and a checklist for observing literacy lessons. The target population comprised all the Grade Two pupils and Grade Two teachers from twelve basic schools in Mbala, Mpulungu and Kasama Districts of Northern Province in Zambia. Two study samples of 120 pupils and 12 teachers were selected from 12 schools to accurately represent the population under study. Therefore, in this study, there were 132 participants. Classes where the teachers and pupils came from were also involved for lesson observation. The study used mainly quantitative, and to a lesser extent qualitative methods in the collection of data. To analyse quantitative data, the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used from which frequencies, percentages and graphs were generated while qualitative data which was obtained through questionnaires and follow up discussions was grouped into the emerging themes. The study found out that under the PRP, Grade Two pupils in government basic schools faced numerous reading and writing difficulties. These difficulties were in form of; letter- identification, letter-writing, letter-sound discrimination, phonological awareness, word- identification, pronunciation, reading fluency, spellings and reading comprehension. These discovered difficulties were attributed to a number of factors which included; local-language and NBTL skill interference, inadequate teacher-knowledge and competence inadequacies and pupil factors such as un-readiness for literacy work in Grade Two among others. Following the findings of this study, the following are recommended; • The Ministry of Education should evaluate and review the performance of the Primary Reading Programme in Zambian basic schools, paying particular attention to areas of weakness in order to offer necessary improvements. • The Ministry of Education should also retrain and monitor Grade Two class-teachers in all schools. These teachers should further and thoroughly be oriented on how to conduct assessment on pupils at entry in each grade and as they continue in school. • The Ministry of Education through school administrators should deploy more teachers at lower grades so that the teacher-pupil contact is improved and maintained. • Schools should ensure that they regularly hold professional meetings aimed at orienting teachers in early literacy content and methodology in order for them to teach reading and writing skills more skillfully and efficiently. • The Ministry of Education through school administrators should continuously monitor, caution and guide teachers for young learners so that these teachers are tolerant, patient, creative and knowledgeable in order for the education system to create and sustain a child-friendly psychological and physical learning environment as these attributes were lacking at the time of the study. As revealed by the study, most pupils' performance in literacy skills was below grade level expectation both in reading and writing. In terms of reading, some pupils faced difficulties even in basic skill areas such as letter-identification. Reading difficulties were more with word-identification, word-reading and reading comprehension. On the other hand, letter, word and sentence writing were noted to be problem areas in general. However, more pupils faced more difficulties with words with three or more syllables as well as sentences. Although pupil-specific factors reasonably contribute to pupil-attainment, the role of the teacher in teaching reading and writing skills to young learners in grade two is even of more crucial importance. Therefore, teachers' content knowledge, their instructional skills and strategies must be enhanced through proper continuous professional development. In this case, the Ministry of Education and schools should continuously provide necessary resources to enhance teacher efficiency and effectiveness for the benefit of pupils in particular and the country at large.
Reading and Writing , Reading and Writing-Basic Schools-Zambia , Primary Reading Programme-Northern Province