Do or die for deprived Class of 2010

2010-10-24 09:50

There will be no lowering of standards for this year’s matric exams, despite the challenges stacked against matriculants.

Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, chief of the exams unit for the Department of Basic Education, said this week that the high standard of South African exams would be maintained.

“There will be no lowering of standards due to the Soccer World Cup, the teachers’ strike or any other circumstances.

“Preparation of learners for ­assessment is a process that the department deals with and not only in the 12th year, but from the foundation phase,” said Sishi.

“We would have sent a wrong message to universities , employers and international exams authorities if (standards) went up and down due to circumstances”.

Education experts are divided about the outlook for the Class of 2010, which numbers 562?473.

Although provincial education departments came up with recovery programmes to alleviate the loss of contact time between teachers and learners, education specialist Graeme Bloch said he expected the results would be worse than in previous years.

“Talk is cheap; catch-up programmes have mostly been symbolic. There is much work, including much repair work, to put education back on track.”

He explained that it had been a destabilising, “horrible” year for education, especially for matrics.

“Sadly, matrics are on their own – although we should not undermine the efforts of many teachers who are still doing their best by their students despite everything”.

Bloch urged matriculants to put their heads down, revise and study, using their textbooks.

“Nonetheless, we can expect that students are neither in the mood nor have the right mindset or the information and curriculum coverage they need.”

However, Professor Francis Faller, acting head of the Witwatersrand University School of Education, cautioned against negative predictions.

“While some of the pressures on exam candidates are unique to this year, other kinds of pressures are common to all Grade 12 candidates in all years.

Let’s not make too many assumptions before the results are out,” he said.

Faller explained: “The final exam needs to be seen as the culmination of 12 years of schooling, rather than what happens in the last semester.

“If teaching and learning have been inadequate during other stages of their schooling, it is difficult to believe that the last lap can fully compensate.”

He added: “It is also important to ask to what extent schooling is preparing our learners for self-dependence in learning, as opposed to complete dependence on teacher input right through to the very end of the school journey.”

Faller believed that the effect of interruptions might be “more psychological and emotional than academic”, since learners might feel that they were abandoned during those times.

“The recovery plan could serve a valuable role in terms of revision of already covered content. However, to expect a last-minute recovery plan to compensate for teaching and learning that should have been completed well in advance of the exams is asking probably too much from it.”

Higher Education South Africa (HESA) CEO Professor Duma Malaza said without purporting to predict the final results of Grade 12 learners, HESA was concerned about the loss of time this year.

“These disruptions, particularly the teachers’ strike, have surely impacted on teaching and learning in most schools.

“Although we applaud the recent interventions by the Department of Basic Education to support Grade 12 learners in particular, we are worried about the profile of the (first years of) 2011,” said Malaza.

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