Pupil tests ‘indicate system is in disarray’

2011-06-30 00:00

THE SA Democratic Teachers’ Union has welcomed the deplorable Annual National Assessment results of tests written by about six million primary school pupils as proof that teacher development cannot be delayed any longer.

The pupils scored well below 50% in numeracy and language.

The union said it has repeatedly called for the Basic Education Department to improve conditions of service for teachers in the early childhood development phases.

The union believes the fact that schools with workbooks fare better than those without justifies its emphasis on the importance of resources in education.

Basil Manuel, deputy president of the National Association of Professional Teachers of SA, said the results are disappointing but not surprising.

He believes the results are indicative of a system in disarray.

Manuel said Naptosa will always support projects at various phases that act as “dipsticks” to show how healthy the system is, but he feels that the department got the timing of the tests wrong. He believes the department chose February so as not to add extra administration at the end of the year when matric exams are written.

“Let’s be honest, certain information will not be at your fingertips unless it is continuously prodded and kept in your memory banks. We are talking about children here. How can they be tested on work done in the previous year?” he asked.

Education sources told The Witness that pupils’ revision for ANA, marking and the analysis of the tests would have brought teaching to a standstill for some schools.

The sources have questioned whether it is a proper diagnostic test given that it has a lot of content. A diagnostic test is supposed to be specific to a generic age and grade, to examine how well pupils know concepts, unlike a content test, which would require responses that are rich in details.

Concern has also been raised that some children would not have understood the terminology used in certain subject areas.

Manuel said the role of subject advisers and their method of intervention are critical for effective turnaround strategies, but questioned “whether subject advisers are [always] experts in the subjects they represent … in this province”.

The “workshop” approach of taking teachers away from their classrooms is not working, Manuel added.

Subject advisors need to go to schools, get in on the action and see the context in which their subjects are being taught, he said.

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