According to the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Measuring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) report of 2010, Zambia is among the three SACMEQ countries with lower levels of reading. This is shown in two studies that were carried out in 2000 and 2007 among grade 6 pupils. For all stakeholders in the education sector, this should be of concern. Therefore, studies as this one are necessary as they may help to inform pedagogy and policy. This study therefore, is an investigation of how teachers practise the teaching of reading (and writing) towards supporting learners with reading difficulties at the lower primary level in Zambia. In order to achieve this objective, five sub-questions were designed. The first two questions focused on the teachers’ backgrounds towards teaching reading and their situations/conditions relating to teaching reading while the last three focused on assessment of reading, planning and classroom implementation. In order to understand the phenomenon in depth, a qualitative approach was used with case study design. Six teachers of fourth-graders in three types of schools: rural, peri-urban and urban were interviewed. The interviews were supported by document analysis followed by classroom observation.
The findings reveal that there were differences in the backgrounds and realities of the teachers but with similar patterns in the three types of schools. It was also evident that the teachers were trying their best to teach reading but under very difficult conditions. Major among the conditions were over enrollment, teacher-pupil ratio and lack of teaching and reading materials. The results further show that the assessment procedures used to identify learners with reading difficulties only work to further widen the gap between the so called ‘slow learners’ and ‘fast learners’. The focus seems to be on summative (assessment of learning) rather than on formative (assessment for learning). There is also evidence to show that the teachers’ planning before teaching has been affected by the challenges of over enrollment, teacher-pupil ratio and lack of teaching and learning materials. This makes it difficult for teachers to consequently teach reading and support learners with reading difficulties leading to poor classroom practice. See appendix G. Therefore, this study helps stake holders appreciate Allington (2005) cited in Elish-Piper and L’Allier (2010) who argued that the best way to increase student achievement in reading is to improve the quality of instruction in the classroom. If learners were taught using the sociocultural perspective, most of the reading difficulties in the studied schools could be prevented.