Learning to read, write, count and calculate forms the basis for all other learning in school and beyond. Pupils start to learn these basic skills in the first three years of schooling. Their learning continues throughout their time in school as the content becomes more complex.

In 2020 and 2021, learners across South Africa missed at least a quarter of a school year due to COVID-related lockdowns and rotational timetabling. Many learners lost much more school time.

Given these disruptions, how much learning was lost across the schooling system? The systemic tests carried out by the country’s Western Cape province provided an ideal opportunity to find out. Each year the Western Cape Education Department tests learners in mathematics and language at the grade 3, 6 and 9 levels.