Grade 1 pupil thinks 7 bicycles have 10 wheels

2014-02-16 14:00

The department of basic education has recommended that the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) be done every quarter during the foundation phases.

The recommendation is contained in a diagnostic report about last year’s ANAs, which shows that pupils are battling to grasp the simplest concepts in numeracy and literacy.

Some of the wrong answers contained in the report include:

  • A Grade 1 pupil who wrote that seven bicycles have 10 wheels; and
  • A Grade 5 pupil who, when asked to convert the sentence “Natalie works hard to be successful” into future tense, wrote: “Natalie will be works hard hard to be successful.”

In another example, a Grade 9 ­pupil was asked to use “if” to join the following sentences: “You are unable to pick your child up from school on time. You should get a message to your child.”

The pupil wrote “You are unable to pick your child up from school if on time if you should get a message to your child” as the answer.

A Grade 4 pupil gave 1?256 as the answer when asked to add 654 and 6.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga introduced the ANAs in 2011 to assess pupils’ maths and English skills.

Pupils in grades 1 to 6 and 9 write the tests. As part of her department’s broader plan to halt the country’s rapidly declining literacy and numeracy skills, Motshekga ­announced last year that she intends extending the assessments to grades 8, 10 and 11.

She also expressed a wish to see Grade 9’s year-end exams externalised. Only 3% percent of Grade 9 pupils achieved above 50% in the tests last year. In 2012 it was 2%.

The diagnostic report is damning.

“The qualitative analysis suggests that most learners have not mastered knowledge and skills that are appropriate to the grade in which they are placed,” it reads. “Therefore, there is a need for teachers to develop remedial programmes that address the shortcomings in learners’ skills and knowledge.”

Professor Lesiba Teffo of Unisa said no amount of testing would bring about the desired changes if this wasn’t accompanied by commitment and dedication from both teachers and pupils.

“If we want [the assessments] to be effective, we must start with the curriculum and those who impart it.”

But Professor Emeritus Johan Muller of the University of Cape Town’s School of Education said there was evidence that the assessments were already ­yielding fruits. “There is evidence that gains are ­being made ... What is good about the tests is that they give us a good picture of what is happening in the system.”

Motshekga’s spokesperson, Panyaza Lesufi, said the minister was determined to make the system work. “As a result of the tests, we now know what the problems are and we have ­developed targeted interventions,” Lesufi said.

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