9 education stories worth remembering

2013-12-25 06:00

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As the class of 2013 awaits its matric results, education reporter Sipho Masondo picks the best and worst of the year in education.

» New schools

This year alone, the department of basic education, through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, has officially handed over 43 new schools to different communities in the Eastern Cape. But much work still needs to be done to eradicate the more than 400 mud schools across the country, most of which are in the Eastern Cape.

Read: Motshekga’s department builds 86 of 600 schools

» Matric credibility review

In September, basic education minister Angie Motshekga appointed a task team to probe if the 30% minimum pass mark for matric is sufficient, with a view to increasing it. Education experts have repeatedly warned that the 30% pass mark is too low and not enough to equip pupils for life at universities and in the workplace.

Read: Angie Motshekga: Is it time to lift the 30% matric pass mark?

» Maths, science and technology unit

In November, Motshekga announced the formation of a maths, science and technology unit in the department. The department had formulated a maths, science and technology strategy a decade ago but provinces were slack in implementing it. In February, Motshekga appointed a task team to investigate the implementation of the strategy. The team recommended that the strategy remain and that its implementation should be rigorous.

Read: Basic education gets department of maths, science and technology

» Compulsory African language

Motshekga also announced an initiative last month which will see all schools introduce a compulsory African language. Although details are still sketchy, education expert Graeme Bloch said introducing an African language was a good idea. He said research had shown that when pupils study an African language at an early age, it made the comprehension of other subjects easier.

Read: Extra two hours at school a week for Grade 1s who pilot an African language

» Extension of Annual National Assessment

Earlier this month, Motshekga announced that the assessments, aimed at testing pupils’ maths and literacy competency, will be extended to all grades in the next three years. At present, the tests are administered to all pupils at primary school as well as grades six and nine at high school. Experts across the sector are unanimous in their praise of the tests as the best thing to come out of the department of basic education in a long time.

On the downside ...

» Captain-less

The department has been operating without its most senior official, director-general Bobby Soobrayan, who was suspended in July.

He was suspended, for among others, allegedly erroneously signing off an agreement granting union members who mark Grade 12 scripts a 100% increase. Five months down the line, Soobrayan has not appeared before a disciplinary hearing. He is sitting at home, drawing a salary.

Read: Disciplinary: Education DG Soobrayan welcomes opportunity to ‘clear the air’

» Textbook delivery

Towards the end of last year, Motshekga promised that by the time schools reopened in January this year, all schools in Limpopo would have textbooks. This followed the much-publicised scandal in Limpopo last year which saw pupils go for more than six months without textbooks. However, not all schools had received their books by January. Many schools reported receiving the wrong books. By April, some schools still had not received their books. The department disputed this, but some of the schools visited by City Press did not have books. This year, Motshekga has promised that Limpopo textbooks would be delivered by mid-November.

Read: Limpopo misses own textbook deadline but Sadtu is satisfied with 98%

» Under administration

The provincial departments of education in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape remain under administration, many months after they were respectively taken over by Pretoria. Limpopo has been under administration for two years while the Eastern Cape was taken over 18 months ago. For the two departments to be under administration for so long can only mean that the problems there are deep-rooted.

Read: More pupils migrate to other provinces, Eastern Cape MEC worried

» Annual National Assessment results

This year’s Annual National Assessment results for lower grades reveal a marked improvement compared with last year. However, Grade 9s performed dismally. Only 3% of all Grade 9 pupils managed to achieve 50% or more in the test for numeracy and literacy.

Read: Only 3% of Grade 9s got 50%+ in numeracy and literacy tests

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