As a parent it is always a concern how well our children will perform at school. Within our capabilities we strive to provide them with every opportunity possible to give them an advantage in life.

For this reason I am constantly ask by parents for tips on improving their children’s eyes to perform better at school.

Now there is no short cut or magic bullet answer to this question. The visual system is highly complex and made up of a multitude of subsystems that need to work in unison to provide ‘normal vision’. Add to that each child’s unique personality and nurturing environment and it makes for a complicated case.

But in most cases I find that looking at the basics first is a good place to start. Normal eye health, fully corrected prescription, normal eye muscular movement and good functional binocular vision. Without these systems working together in harmony the child will be lacking the fundamental tool needed for school performance, namely reading skills.

Reading skills is a basic tool that we all need to succeed in school and life. Without it numeracy and literacy skills will be non-existent and this fact was sadly confirmed in a recent report released by the National department of Education.

Only 12% of Grade 6 pupils scored 50% or more for mathematics in a country-wide assessment test earlier this year.

This low score was one of several revealed in the delayed 2011 Annual National Assessment (ANA) results, released by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The assessment includes numeracy and literacy tests conducted among six million so-called foundation phase (grades 1 – 3) and intermediate phase (grades 4 – 6) pupils attending government schools.

The tests took place in February, after pupils had completed the previous year’s grade work.

According to the document, Grade 6 results for language, based on a sample of results from selected schools, show that as few as 15% of pupils scored more than 50%.

Among Grade 3 pupils, only 17% scored more than 50% in their numeracy assessment and 31% scored more than 50% in the literacy test.

Make or break

Motshekga said the ANA was the most wide-ranging assessment of literacy and numeracy skills among young pupils ever carried out in South Africa.

Noting that a pupil’s first five years at school were a “make or break” watershed in his or her development, she said. The assessment showed there had been an under-emphasis in education on basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

Spelling out some of the assessment’s results, which she described as “very sad”, she said that among Grade 3 pupils the national average performance in literacy was 35% and in numeracy 28%.

“Provincial performance in these two areas is between 19% and 43%, the highest being the Western Cape and the lowest being Mpumalanga.”

Turning to the assessment of Grade 6 pupils, she further said the national average performance in languages was 28% and for mathematics 30%.

“The performance is something that we expected, given the poor performance of South African learners in recent international and local assessments.”

“But now we have our own benchmarks against which we can set targets and move forward,” Motshekga said.

According to a document handed to journalists at the event, a very small percentage of pupils qualified as “outstanding” in the assessment.

Among Grade 3 pupils 11% achieved this in literacy and 5% in numeracy. Among Grade 6 pupils only 3% achieved this in both language and mathematics.

Girls outperform boys

A gender comparison reveals that girls generally out-perform boys across the ranges assessed and particularly at the top level.

One glimmer of good news among the ANA results was the relatively better performance of Grade 1 and 2 pupils.

The document attributes this, among other things, to the recent introduction of standardized learning material for Grade R pupils and interventions at the foundation phase level to improve literacy and numeracy.

Motshekga said her department was moving to address the problems.

“While there is no quick fix, we are confident that our interventions will bear fruit in the years to come…”

She said there appeared to be “far too big a leap” between grades 3 and 4.

“This may account for the drop in results that we see as children move up the grades.”

From next year, there would be fewer subjects in grades 4 to 6.

“The jump from Grade 3 to Grade 4 is [also] made more difficult with the switch to English in Grade 4,” she said.

The ANA results were supposed to have been released on April 29 but, according to a statement issued by the department at that time, this was not possible because it was “still in the process of capturing results from all districts in the country”.

This report should be very concerning to parents with children still in school. It definitely made the DA in the Western Cape stand up and pay attention. In a statement by Wilmot James, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of basic education he ensured that the “Western Cape Education Minister, Donald Grant, has given his assurances that we will continue to prioritize our literacy and numeracy strategy to improve learner performances in the province”.

Although the powers that be, have made promises to improve the situation of poor literacy and numeracy skills in the school, the fact still remains that ultimately it is still the responsibility of the parent to ensure that their children get the best learning opportunities possible.

This also means that parents should make sure that their children’s eyes are regularly checked for any eye problems. In an independent study by Jonga Trust, a non-profit organization providing eye care to underprivileged schools in the Western Cape, found that up to 12% of children in schools have uncorrected visual defects.

EYE Read Program

Another great tool to help with reading skills is the EYE Read program. The EYE Read software is specifically written for the South African market and is available in both English and Afrikaans.

EYE Read Software

It is a great tool to allow the child to develop reading skills at his/her own pace and consists of age specific reading exercises, eye muscle exercises and reading and comprehension tests. All the children in the family can use the software (even the parents) as the software will auto adjust the difficulty level to the age of the user.

Child using the Eye Read software to improve reading skills

Child using the Eye Read software to improve reading skills

Another nice feature is the reporting software. With this feature the parent can track the child’s progress as he/she uses the software and can be made aware of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing the weaknesses provides the parent with the opportunity to improve the child’s reading skill by addressing those specific problems, allowing for a tailor made learning program specific for that child.

Eye Read software provides detailed progress reports

Eye Read software provides detailed progress reports

The EYE Read program consists of EYE Read program CD Rom and the Attention Span CD. To add further value to the program, everyone who purchases an EYE Read program will automatically be registered as a PROSPER CLUB member providing you with monthly motivational newsletters on subjects like study tips, Human Relation principles, positive attitude thoughts and ideas on controlling worry, stress and tension. (For more information about the EYE Read program leave us your questions on the Discuss article box below).

Education is a gift we all should have. I believe as a parent, it is the greatest gift we can bestow on our children. Please make sure they get all the opportunities they can have. They are worth it.