Recently, the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) has commented on the dismal state of affairs regarding education in South Africa. NEEDU highlights some genuine truths about the plight of learners who are struggling to read but places the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of teachers.
It would be incorrect to deny the fact that there are teachers out there who are consistently under-performing, who lack motivation and who are ill-equipped to educate our children. However, there are several more teachers who commit their lives to teaching in the communities of the poor and who are making a difference on a daily basis but are met with a lack of departmental support and a barrage of poorly designed education policies.
One such policy which exacerbates SA’s education crisis, is the fact that learners may only fail once in a phase. If a learner is deemed not yet competent to proceed but has already failed, teachers are forced to promote this learner to the next grade. The result of this is that the new teacher has to teach two to three years of backlog in order to get their class up to grade level.
To put it practically, the curriculum which the teacher is forced to teach may demand that learners be working with fractions but the actual skill level of the learner is at a place where they still need to cement concepts such as basic addition and subtraction. If teachers are expected to make sure curriculum is covered, when will their children do the catching up?
If learners were not simply progressed because of their age then there would not be a problem of learners post-foundation phase who are unable to read, write and do basic arithmetic.
Every child can learn to succeed under the right conditions and given the right support. Progressing children because policy does not allow them to fail does not help anyone because as unfortunate as it may be, learning does not happen by osmosis.
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