Education caned over schools’ ANA tests

2011-02-09 00:00

PRINCIPALS and teacher unions have expressed concern over what they called the poor organisation of the Annual National Assessment (ANA), which began yesterday.

The ANA is a set of tests formula­ted by the national Department of Basic Education that aims to improve pupils’ performance in basic literacy and numeracy skills, which are considered foundational skills for academic success.

The ANA is written by pupils across the country who were in grades one to nine in 2010.

The Witness spoke to various principals to find out how the first day went.

They said the ANA was poorly organised. For example, in Mooi River they had to jostle each other just to get the exam papers.

They only received grade three papers when they were supposed to have grade six papers as well.

“We had to photocopy some of the grade three papers because there were insufficient copies,” said one principal.

Another said: “The language of learning and teaching was not what we were expecting because a mathematics paper is supposed to be in English, but we found that they were in isiZulu, which was a bit confusing for pupils.”

The provincial deputy secretary for SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, Siyabonga Mdletshe, said, “We believe that the ANA has correct objectives. However, the way it was introduced and its timing are very chaotic.”

He said that as a result of poor organisation in implementation, the programme might not achieve its objectives.

Ilze Nieuwoudt of Solidarity union commented: “The tests to be written by millions of pupils this week abound with spelling, typing and grammatical errors. The logistical arrangements surrounding the tests also leave much to be desired.

“The government failed this test. How does the government plan to improve pupils’ literacy and numeracy levels by 2014 if its question papers are littered with errors?” she asked.

“The tests should have been written last year, immediately after the exams.

“However, due to the department’s poor planning and the drawn-out public service strike last year, they are being written during one of the busiest school terms,” said Nieuwoudt.

A spokesperson for Basic Education in KZN, Mbali Thusi, said the question papers are set nationally and sent to provinces. “We had contingency plans in place to ensure that all learners do write the tests,” she said.

One of these was to use photo­copiers at schools (that have them) to produce enough papers for all pupils.

“It was the first time that such tests were being written and it is a mammoth task with the province having 1,4 million learners in 4 087 primary schools and 50 grade 10 schools sitting for the exams,” she said.

“Every measure has been put in place to ensure any teething problems are dealt with promptly and swiftly, and the effort put in by our officials, including school principals, in ensuring that all learners sit for these tests is applauded,” added Thusi.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to report on the ANA perfor­mance of grade three, six and nine pupils by March of every year, beginning in 2011.

National Basic Education spokesperson Granville Whittle said in a statement,“In order to measure our learners’ progress, the national department is setting the ANA to establish at what levels our learners are performing in 2011. The ANA will give us a benchmark against which we can measure future performance,.

Motshekga said yesterday, “I expect the worst, but we need to know the worst so that we can address the weaknesses that exist [in the education system].”

Motshekga said the ANA tests are “diagnostic”.

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