Discussing Foundation Phase in South Africa (Part 1)

Updated: Sep 3, 2019


We know that Early Childhood Development & Foundation Phase in South Africa is in a critical state with the latest international benchmark testing proving that 78% of 10 year olds cannot read for meaning in any language. This is the first opening into the discussion about Foundation Phase in South Africa and highlighting the recent Department of Basic Education proposal to introduce a ‘no repeat’ policy for Foundation phase learners in grades R to 3. This means that the learner’s will be automatically promoted through to the next grade regardless of whether they have acquired the necessary skills to proceed or not. Learners will then be required to use skills they have not yet mastered in the grades above.


The South African Department of Education has put forward a proposal to introduce a ‘no repeat’ policy for foundation phase learners in grades R to 3. This means that the learner’s will be automatically promoted through to the next grade regardless of whether they have acquired the necessary skills to proceed or not. Learners will be required to use skills they have not yet mastered in the grades above.

Motivation for this policy stems from a statement made by Angie Motshekga that expert opinions suggests that for learners between the ages of 6-10, it would do more harm than good to keep learners back even if they are not grasping the basic fundamentals before moving on to the next grade. Motshekga says that repeating these grades only impacts negatively on the children’s sense of failure which will have lasting effects throughout their lives.

The South African public have opened a discussion together with the press to find out who these experts are that have conducted the above mentioned research stated by Angie Motshekga in the Basic Education Budget Vote Speech 2018/2019.


Dr Melodie de Jager, a developmental specialist and founder of the Mind Moves Institute, gives us some food for thought in her YouTube video where she talks about the effects this policy will have and how to address the real problem at hand. Dr de Jager points out that the root of the decision for this ‘no repeat’ policy, according to documentation, comes from statistics showing the number of learners repeating Grade 1 in South Africa. Currently, 20% of learners entering Grade 1 are required to repeat the grade. This leads to problems such as overcrowding in classrooms where there are up to 70 students in a class. Teachers are overwhelmed and understaffed. She further states that repetition is the best way to learn and reinforce new knowledge. More importantly, if the learners language, physical, emotional, social, cognitive and thinking skills are not in place, the learner will