n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Reading ability and academic performance in South Africa : are we fiddling while Rome is burning?




The two studies reported in this article investigated the relationship between reading skill and academic performance at undergraduate level. The findings showed clear and consistent differences in reading ability between the different academic groups, with reading skills improving the higher the academic group. The findings indicate that many additional language (AL) students have serious reading comprehension problems, which means that they have ineffective and limited access to the rich sources of declarative knowledge provided by print-based materials in the learning context. Reading is important in the learning context not only because it affords readers independent access to information in an increasingly information-driven society, but more importantly because it is a powerful learning tool, a means of constructing meaning and acquiring new knowledge. If developing countries aim to produce independent learners, then serious attention will need to be given to improving the reading skills of students and to creating a culture of reading. Reading is not simply an additional tool that students need at tertiary level - it constitutes the very process whereby learning occurs.


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