ANAs Debate: We need toilets and labs, not these expensive tests

2015-10-05 12:30

The SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu)never opposed the ANAs. Assessment is an integral part of education and is continuous.

It can be conducted by a teacher during one lesson every day. Teachers engage pupils who participate during the period and assessment takes place at the same time.

Pupils write monthly tests and quarterly exams. Their progress is followed up throughout the year. Parents receive progress reports on their children all the time. They can be invited to school by subject teachers and principals at any time.

They work together to resolve challenges in the development of their children. This is normal. It happens every day without spending an extra cent, whether the ANAs exist or not.

The system now subjects pupils to assessments from the circuit, district, provincial and national authorities. In some provinces, pupils as young as those in Grade 1 have to come to school on a Saturday to prepare for the assessments.

The pre-ANA tests are further depleting teaching time in classrooms. When do teachers find the time to teach? There is less time to teach now and more assessment administration work to do.

This is over and above the systematic evaluation tests enforced in the Western Cape.

The curriculum is narrowed, as teachers focus on question papers and answers for the ANAs. Everything becomes distorted.

Sadtu is not opposed to a national systematic evaluation to assess the state of health of our education system, focusing on numeracy and literacy. But it cannot be as frequent as the case is now. Together with other teachers’ unions, we are calling for a triannual national assessment that allows more time for teaching and remedial work.

Sadtu opposes “high-stakes tests” of the kind that crush and do not build.

The money spent on the ANAs would be better allocated towards important facilities such as toilets, laboratories, libraries and those promoting recreation and sport, as well as to teacher development, more teachers and reducing overcrowded classes.

These areas of concern don’t need a diagnosis. We have known about them since the presidential review commission ordered by then president Nelson Mandela in the 1990s. We know about them as the continued findings of many systematic evaluations.

The reports of the 2001 Whole School Evaluation, though never presented to the public, raised the same issues, which still need intervention.

These are also the findings of the national education evaluation and development system.

The ANAs are not the first tool to diagnose the challenges of literacy and numeracy. There were many others before the ANAs. All research findings mention socioeconomic variables as key to improving education.

The country still awaits a report on how we have responded to the previous ANAs and the fit-for-purpose integrated interventions that we applied to respond to the analysis since 2012.

The country needs to know and understand why some interventions failed and what new tactics the basic education department will put in place.

Sadtu supports a system that will develop a whole citizen who thinks and acts independently while contributing towards the development of society.

Sadtu does not intend to drill facts into pupils so that they can regurgitate these without any critical and analytical skills. Sadtu’s vocation is not about producing uncritical, human robots meant to be a labour force for maintaining the current system of production.

As teachers, we aim higher than that. If this means we are going to be called “political”, then so be it. Nor is it any part of our duty as teachers to perform contortions for the sake of the vested interests and service providers who feed off the R200 million set aside for the ANAs.

All teachers’ unions and many academics, Equal Education and even some people working in the department are calling for the reconceptualisation of the assessment instrument. All these entities have aired their voices for the recall of the ANAs.

Sadtu would like to correct the misconception that some members of the public have picked up on.

The ANAs do not determine if a pupil fails or progresses to the next grade, so society should not be misled into thinking it is meant to achieve that. Normal assessments for the purpose of individual progression are continuous and will be administered in November.

Dolopi is the deputy general secretary of Sadtu
Read more on:    sadtu  |  ana

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