Pretoria — The Department of Basic Education says it acknowledges and welcomes the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) reports by the Human Sciences Research Council.
Both reports, which were released on Tuesday, indicated that the country's maths and reading results were still exceptionally low, and that the country still had a long road to walk.
"We value rigorous and independent evaluations of the schooling system. Although we are fully alive to the continuing challenges, it is heartening to see that change and improvement are possible.
"TIMSS results show an upward trajectory since 2002. We are especially relieved that the greatest improvements have occurred where we have worked the hardest and where we least expected it - in our poorest African schools and in provinces with large rural populations and troubled systems, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo," the department said in a statement.
The department also thanked and congratulated schools, principals and teachers who keep going and do their best, even when the odds are stacked against them. However, it acknowledged that there was clearly room for improvement in all schools and among all learners.
"We must redouble our efforts to secure consistent and on-going improvement in all schools. We should also draw on the best practices of these evaluations to improve the accuracy and reliability of our own Annual National Assessments.
"The pre-PIRLS and PIRLS results reconfirm the need to expect and teach our children to start reading more and longer texts at an earlier age. This will also be the foundation of better mathematics and scientific achievement. We are optimistic that this is possible."
The department said it took seriously the issues highlighted by both reports. These include focusing on schools in poorer and rural areas as well as those at the top; and the importance of enhanced expectations and resources to improve reading, literacy, mathematics and science achievement overall.