SACMEQ IV Study Results

Achievement and test scales
Scale Creation
  • An international reading performance scale and an international mathematics performance scale were constructed using item response theory (Rasch partial credit model).
  • For both scales, the international average is 500 points, and the standard deviation is 100 points, with all countries being given equal weighting.
  • There are eight competency levels for both reading and mathematics tests.
  • Minimum and desired knowledge levels were developed for the HAK test


List of Achievement Scales
  • Reading, mathematics, and HAKT achievement scores – grade 6 pupils and their teachers
  • Reading competency scale – grade 6 pupils and their teachers
  • Mathematics competency scale – grade 6 pupils and their teachers
  • HAKT levels – grade 6 pupils and their teachers
  • TBKT levels – grade 6 pupils and their teachers – in South Africa only
Questionnaire and background scales
Scale Creation
  • Indices were compiled to summarize responses to the background survey questions put to pupils, teachers, and school heads.
  • The computation of these indices followed the same development process as the test scores (item response theory, the Rasch partial credit model).
  • To facilitate interpretation of the indices, results were adjusted to an international scale for which the average is 50 and the standard deviation is 10.


List of Background Scales
  • School infrastructure index
  • Classroom equipment index
  • Personal possessions index
  • Academic qualifications index
  • Home condition indices (roof, wall, floor)
  • Socio-economic status index
  • Lighting source index
Overview of key study results
  • Pupil achievement
    • Overall grade 6 pupil achievement on reading and mathematics in the SACMEQ IV region has consistently improved.
      • However, while about 76% of pupils reached an ‘acceptable’ level of competency in reading, only 50% achieved such in mathematics.
      • More than half of SACMEQ IV countries had much higher percentages in both competences.
    • Proportions of pupils reaching high level skills in both mathematics and reading continued to decline while those reaching acceptable skills showed some improvement.
    • There was a significant reduction in the number of non-numerate and non-literate learners at the grade 6 level.
    • A higher proportion of pupils from urban locations and high socio-economic status reached acceptable mathematics and reading competency levels than did those from a rural location and low socio-economic status.
    • A majority of the grade 6 learners did not have the minimum level of knowledge about HIV & AIDS that is required to preserve and protect health.
    • A small but significant percentage of pupils were below the minimum level of knowledge on TB (tested in South Africa only).


  • Pupils’ age and gender differences
    • The average pupil age at Grade 6 was 13 years—1 year higher than the desirable age.
    • There were approximately the same number of boys and girls at the grade 6 level.
    • Girls performed better than boys in reading, while boys performed better than girls in mathematics. There was parity in performance on HIV & AIDS knowledge.


  • School infrastructure and resources
    • School infrastructure and facilities, though reasonably distributed across the regions, showed conditions needing attention.
    • There was a decline with respect to the conditions of classrooms, with most of them in need of repair, and with insufficient pupil learning inputs, such as textbooks, learning materials, or school library.
      • Seventy percent (70%) of grade 6 pupils had access to library books.
      • Only 37% of grade 6 pupils had school stationery such as exercise books, pens, pencils, erasers, and rules.
    • Schools generally had the desired human resources as recommended by the (Revised) National Policy on Education.
    • Eighty-nine percent (89%) of grade 6 pupils were in schools with school heads who had received training in school management and 63% were taught by teachers who had received in-service training.
    • Improvements were observed with respect to access to electricity by pupils at place of stay, and supply of potable water. Sixty-three percent (63%) of grade 6 pupils indicated having access to electricity, while 86% had access to clean water.


  • Teachers and school heads
    • The average age of grade 6 teachers was 37 years; the average age of school heads 49 years.
    • Approximately 50% of grade 6 pupils in SACMEQ IV countries were taught by teachers with at least an A-level academic qualification.
    • The mean teaching load for SACMEQ IV countries was around 30 lessons per week with an average class size of about 50 pupils.
    • Fifty-six percent (56%) of the pupils were taught by female teachers and 35% attended schools with female school heads.
    • There was a decline in grade 6 teachers’ achievement in both reading and mathematics. However, the majority of grade 6 teachers still attained high levels of competency in both reading and mathematics.
    • Teachers had minimum levels of knowledge about TB; just under a third achieved desirable levels of knowledge (tested in South Africa only).
    • There was a high percentage of school heads who reported that they had sometimes experienced teacher behavioral problems including skipping class, intimidation of pupils, use of abusive language, drug and alcohol abuse or possession.
Sources - Report(s) of results