Maths marks appal

2014-12-05 00:00

THIS year’s Grade 9 Annual National Assessment (ANA) results are “simply appalling”, said local education ­experts.

The 2014 ANA results show that grades 1 to 6 improved, but Grade 9 ­pupils performed poorly, particularly in mathematics.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshega released the results ­yesterday at Muzomuhle Primary School in Gauteng.

More than seven million Grade 1-9 pupils in public schools were assessed in numeracy and literacy.

The ANA report found that Grade 9 pupils were unfamiliar with mathematical terminology and properties. Pupils have not mastered basic algebraic skills and are unable to solve applications in geometry and problems involving spatial manipulations.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the average mark in Grade 9 maths dropped to 8,2% from 14,4% in 2013.

In both home language and first ­additional language pupils struggled to respond to questions that required the use of their own words.

They were also unable to interpret a sentence or give an opinion.

“Our Achilles’ heel remains the ­unacceptably low performance in Grade 9 mathematics. All ANA results and ­diagnostic reports have flagged the problem of mathematics teaching and learning throughout the system,” said Motshega.

“Poor grasp of mathematical ­concepts, and teachers’ apparent lack of requisite academic level in ­mathematics to teach Grade 9 mathematics — these are the twin limitations that we must confront if we are to take the system out of this quagmire.”

Wayne Hugo, professor in the School of Education and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, ­applauded the minister for at least ­being honest about the ANAs’ strengths and weaknesses.

“She came up with practical ­solutions to deal with the Grade 9 problem, but I am afraid she is not going to fix the problem at Grade 9 because it is too late by then, the kids have already fallen off the wagon,” he said.

Hugo explained that marks begin to drop as early as Grade 4 and that each year they fall further and further.

He said the fact that some pupils ­performed poorly in their home ­language was a huge concern.

“The problem is that the ­department needs to develop the home language into an academic language. The English-speaking pupils find it easier to make the transition but the others don’t,” said Hugo.

Edith Dempster, senior research ­associate in UKZN’s school of ­education, shared Hugo’s sentiments. But she said it was difficult to compare year-to-year results because the test is different every year.

“The Grade 9 marks for 2014 are simply appalling. There is something wrong with the maths assessment here,” she said.

Dempster also questioned the ­credibility of the results.

“I have a concern about aggregating the marks for all home languages into one score. It would be better to treat the home languages individually,” she said.

The Annual National Assessment

Every year, pupils in grades 3, 6 and 9 are assessed on literacy and numeracy — pupils’ ability to read and write and ability to work with numbers. The tests cover work that pupils would have learnt during the course of the year.

The department does not use the ANA results for progress reports or ­promotion to the next grade. The results help the department see where pupils need assistance and help the teachers plan their classes better.

Pupils write a language test either in their home language or first additional ­language.

Plans to improve

Motshega has put measures in place to try and improve ANA results.

These include an investigation into schools offering grades 7-9 that have performed poorly, particularly in Grade 9 mathematics.

The department will conduct a study of the sampled schools.

“This will provide deeper information about these schools, particularly on issues pertaining to curriculum ­coverage and the quality of school-based assessment,” said Motshega.

She said the department plans to intensify monitoring across the schools.

“For this to be effective, 10% of all secondary schools offering Grade 9 mathematics [874 schools] will be sampled for closer monitoring.”

The department will also be focusing on improving reading in schools.

“… Teachers of all subjects in all grades are encouraged to include a ­dedicated reading activity in their ­lessons,” she said.

The minister said classroom ­teaching must improve so that pupils can receive quality knowledge at the requisite level.

The 2014 overall ANA results show that Grade 1 to 6 recorded a positive improvement while Grade 9 pupils performed poorly, particularly in mathematics.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshega released the results yesterday at Muzomuhle Primary School in Gauteng.

More than 7 million Grade 1- 9 pupils in public schools around the country were assessed in numeracy and literacy.

The ANA report found that Grade 9 pupils were unfamiliar with mathematical terminology and properties. Pupils have not mastered basic algebraic skills and are unable to solve applications in Geometry and problems involving spatial manipulations.

In KwaZulu-Natal the average mark in Grade 9 Maths dropped to 8.2% from 14.4% in 2013.

In both Home Language and First Additional Language pupils struggled to respond to questions that required the use of their own words.

They were also unable to interpret a sentence or give an opinion when required.

“Our Achilles’ heel remains the unacceptably low performance in Grade 9 Mathematics. All ANA results and diagnostic reports have flagged the problem of Mathematics teaching and learning throughout the system.”

“Poor grasp of mathematical concepts, and teachers’ apparent lack of requisite academic level in Mathematics to teach Grade 9 Mathematics. These are the twin limitations that we must confront if we are to take the system out of this quagmire,” said Motshega.

Wayne Hugo Professor in the School of Education and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal applauded the minister for at least being honest about the ANA’s strengths and weaknesses.

“She came up with practical solutions to deal with the Grade 9 problem, but I am afraid she is not going to fix the problem at Grade 9 because it is too late by then, the kids have already fallen off the wagon,” he said.

Hugo explained that marks begin to show a drop as early as Grade 4 and that each year they fall further and further behind.

He said the fact that some pupils performed poorly in their home language was a huge concern.

“The problem is that the department needs to develop the home language into an academic language. The English speaking pupils find it easier to make the transition but the others don’t,” said Hugo.

Senior research associate in the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s school of education Edith Dempster, shared Hugo’s sentiments. But she she said it was difficult to compare year-to-year results because the test is different every year.

“The Grade 9 marks for 2014 are simply appalling. There is something wrong with the maths assessment here,” she said. Dempster also questioned the credibility of the results.

“I have a concern about aggregating the marks for all home languages into one score, as is done for the Home Language assessment. It would be better to treat the home languages individually,” she said.

• amanda.khoza@witness.co.za

Facts about Annual National Assessment

Every year pupils in Grade 3, 6 and 9 are subjected to an assessment to measure where their literacy and numeracy levels.

According to the Department of Basic Education’s website all grades in the foundation and intermediate phases are assessed in all public ordinary schools and in special schools including learners who are blind, partially sighted or deaf.

The assessments only test on the literacy, their ability to read and write and numeracy, their ability to work with numbers. The tests cover work that pupils would have learnt during the course of the year.

The department of education does not use the ANA results for learner progress reports or promotion to the next grade. The results assist the department see where learners need assistance and help the teachers plan their classes better to suit the needs of the pupils.

Pupils write a language test either at Home Language or First Additional Language level.

The department says all the tests specifications or frameworks aligned to the relevant curriculum guided item and test development.

According to the department the tests are subjected to review by internal and external panels, each panel member is an expert in the field to ensure that the tests were of benchmarked standards. – WR

Plans to improve

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshega has put measures in place to try and improve the Annual National Assessment results.

These include an investigation into schools offering Grade 7 to 9 that have performed poorly, particularly grade 9 mathematics.

The department of education will conduct a study of the sampled schools.

“This will provide deeper information about these schools, particularly on issues pertaining to curriculum coverage and the quality of school-based assessment,” said Motshega.

She said the department plans to intensify monitoring across the schools.

“For this to be effective 10% of all secondary schools offering Grade 9 Mathematics will be sampled for closer monitoring.”

“This amounts to 874 schools proportionally distributed in provinces,” said Motshega.

The department will also be focusing on improving reading in schools.

“The Department has implemented a strategy to promote reading across the curriculum in content subjects. Hence, teachers of all subjects in all grades are encouraged to include a dedicated reading activity in their lessons,” she said.

Motshega said classroom teaching must improve so that learners can receive quality knowledge at the requisite level.

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