Definition of Literacy of African Students


In South Africa, usually, it is hard for students to get into higher education and even if they get into it, it is hard for them to study and finish their course. Robert Prince 2016 says only 27% in south africa graduates and 55% don’t continue their education. The author is trying to research which students in southafrican higher education benefit from extended programs and graduate. Robert Prince 2016 describes the norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessment helpful to students for six years at a higher education college.

The author insists that for a more productive way, both assessments have to complement each other for the purpose of placements of students.

The author Robert Prince 2016 argues that for placement of students in particular programs, two things have to be considered as most important. One is placing the student in a proper curriculum plan and curriculum plan must be taken into account while dealing with students level. Robert Prince 2016 says without knowing and placing them in proper programs, the failure of the students to complete the degree is going to degrade.

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Two assessments are given for school leaving students in South Africa, one is National Senior Certificate (NSC) and next one is National Benchmark Tests (NBT). The author adds that when criterion referenced data collected through NBT complements NSC norm referenced data, then the challenge of southafrican higher studies can be addressed.

Variables studied

Mostly, for higher education NSC assessments are taken into consideration in africa. The age group considered for this was 20-24 where 60% were white students and 12% were africans.

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Robert Prince 2016 adds, mostly white people graduated in 5years when this type of assessment was used. The criterion and norm referenced assessments were used here in this study. So in order to find out what can be done to make african students to complete their degree, NSC and NBT are studied to determine how well the curriculum is in school and in college. Africa wants to change the curriculum to meet students’ needs, and wants the curriculum to be made perfect for all types of students.


Samples in this study are two 566 first time students entering to degrees such as, commerce, engineering and the built environment, and science. This has been taken in 2009 over six years and their last academic score has been classified as “fail, continue and graduate”. Out of these above samples, 2 375 students wrote tests like NBT Academic Literacy and Quantitative Literacy assessment and two 253 students wrote NBT Mathematics assessment. Also, two 35 students wrote NSC english assessment and 2 27 students attended the NSC Mathematics assessment. In this sample, about 39.95% are south african students and 62.04% students speak english. Also, the author indicates that there are more male students compared to female students in the sample. The sample of students has been segregated into Academic learning (AL), (67.28% were proficient in this. Quantitative learning (QL), 46.15% were good in this and Mathematics (MAT), 14.91% were good at it. This result shows that students need extended support in everything to thrive in higher education.

Data gathering

The african higher education consists of diverse people. The assessment is divided into an academic test, Quantitative Literacy and mathematics test. The above tests are carried out and performance band and scores are determined. As most of the african students come in intermediet performance bands, the band is into upper and lower performance bands. The below table shows the scores of different band students and an explanation has been given in the blow table.

Students must be placed in extended degree program

In this study, criterion based assessments are used against benchmark performance and norm based assessments are used to assess whether students meet certain standards in individual subjects. The question paper has been set by a panel which consists of 3-5 members, language has been simplified to correlate african and english speaking students. In the sample, 65.39% of students achieved the NSC at an outstanding level in English, while 92.74% achieved the NSC at either outstanding levels in maths.

The results show that the majority of the students can cope up with subjects and can easily pursue higher education. While considering NBT assessment which is criterion based shows 67.28% were proficient in Academic learning, 46.15% were proficient in Quantitative learning and only 14.91% were proficient in maths. The result shows that the students need some sort of support in maths. The data is also collected in six years time which shows an increased graduation level.


To thrive in higher education, the author says that the students should be placed in the curricula that meet their individual needs. Some programs create a strong foundation in the first year itself while some make a foundation for two years. The results show that the criterion referenced assessment gives higher graduation results in education and lowers the dropout rates than norm referenced tests. Criterion referenced tests provide data to make decisions on the best curriculum for individual needs, which norm referenced tests couldn’t do.

How data is used

I learnt that both norm referenced and criterion referenced tests are useful and when compliments one another, it can help children’s success. Whenever ranking is needed, a norm referenced test can be used and whenever children’s individual performance is studied criterion referenced is used. Norm-referenced tests are used to determine the eligibility of students for admission, program placement.


Two questions were studied in this paper. One is to determine the U.S. education departments to determine the severity in language impairment in children using norm-referenced tests. Second is to see whether the norm-referenced tests for child language is helpful in identifying the severity of language impairment in children. If the child has a language impairment, then the child will exhibit various clinical impairments as well. Even though clinicians use norm-referenced tests to assess children, it can also be used to diagnose the severity in language impairment. But the usefulness of the norm-referenced test in diagnosing the severity is uncertain. Spaulding, Szulga & Figueroa 2012 wanted to know the criteria set by U.S. education departments to determine the severity and it is compared to data given in the norm-referenced manuals.

Variables studied

The author contacted departments both in phone and Email to verify the guidelines posted online. Some states in the US did not post the guidelines online. If it is posted, the author collected data about levels of severity, labels for each level and operational definitions. Also, Spaulding, Szulga & Figueroa 2012 collected information on whether norm-referenced tests are used and if used what cut-off points determine the severity levels.


Samples are taken from the U.S. education department. Out of 50 states 10 states (20%) were used to collect data. Spaulding, Szulga & Figueroa 2012 contacted 10 departments to verify if the posted guidelines are recent one’s. Also, 45 norm-referenced test manuals are included for the study. School age children from 5-17years are taken into account for the study purpose. Tests are conducted for oral language for children who are english speakers.

Data gathering

The manuals in the university of Connecticut and Arizona Speech and Hearing Clinics are evaluated. Some manuals are not available and those are ordered from the publisher to review. First, manuals are reviewed and decisions were made whether to include it for identifying severity in language impairment. Secondly, whether sample children are mentioned in the manuals are determined, if there are children then they are also included in the sample. Next, the samples are determined for language severity. Manuals are checked for cutoff points for severity and children are categorized into severity levels. The authors in this paper individually reviewed the manual and child’s impairment levels.


In the 50 states included, 8 (states were Arkansas, North Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Virginia and Tennessee) provided the guidelines for determining severity and they also provided cutoff points for severity as a standard to compare using norm-referenced tests. Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, and North Dakota points are accurate but there was a mathematical error in Virginia’s cut off points. Remaining states in that 8 had inconsistent data. Inorder to combine sample results with standard norm-referenced test results, Dakota gave procedures to combine results. This state also gave the procedure on how to determine the severity in children and combine that with the results. Other states didn’t mention what type of norm-referenced tests can be used to determine the severity of language impairment in children.

How data is used

I understood that in clinics there are numerous (40) norm-referenced tests available and there are also various reasons for using it to determine the language impairment in children. Also, norm-referenced tests are not of much use to determine the severity in children.

Compare and contrast

In the first journal, both norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests were used but in the second one only norm-referenced tests are used. Criterion referenced tests are used to determine the individual skills to prepare a curriculum and choose a proper course for them. Norm-referenced in the second paper is used to determine the child’s language impairment against standards in the government manual, low and high cutoff points are determined.


  1. Prince, R. and Archer, A (2008). A New Literacies approach to academic numeracy practices in Higher Education in South Africa. Literacy and Numeracy Studies. 16(1). 63 – 75.
  2. Prince, Robert (2016). Predicting Success in Higher Education: The Value of Criterion and Norm-Referenced Assessments. Practitioner Research in Higher Education. 10(1). 22-38.
  3. Spaulding, T. J., Szulga, M. S., & Figueroa, C. (2012). Using norm-referenced tests to determine severity of language impairment in children: Disconnect between U.S. policy makers and test developers. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools (Online), 43(2), 176-190.

Cite this page

Definition of Literacy of African Students. (2022, Jun 04). Retrieved from

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