Pupils’ language battles revealed

2013-06-12 00:00

THE diagnostic report on the Annual National Assessment (ANA) 2012 has found that pupils have not mastered knowledge and skills that are appropriate for their grades.

ANA is used to examine pupils’ performance in literacy and numeracy, and in September last year pupils from grades 1 to 6 and Grade 9 sat for their assessments.

This diagnostic report published by the Department of Basic Education, aims to highlight and inform teachers and school management teams about areas where pupils were inadequately equipped. To compile this data, the department collected random samples of marked scripts from each school that had Grade 3, 6 and 9 pupils and re-marked the scripts centrally.

The 2012 ANA results raised eyebrows when it was revealed that Grade 9 pupils in KwaZulu-Natal scored an average of 12% in mathematics, while only 0,1% managed between 80% and 100%.

In home languages, pupils achieved an average of 37,7%, and 32,3% in their first additional language.

Nationally, the Grade 9 maths average was 13%, home language stood at 43% and first additional language at 35%.

What the diagnostic report has found is that the majority of pupils cannot read with comprehension, cannot write coherent words or sentences, their knowledge of grammar is limited, and they battle with spelling.

“The most striking weakness is the inability of learners to read with understanding. Reading with comprehension is a cornerstone of the learning process,” the report stated.

Teachers needed to concentrate on improving this skill, the research suggested. The research found that Grade 6 pupils showed an “acute lack” of knowledge of basic elements of language structure in both Afrikaans and English. In maths, pupils could not respond to questions, failed to simply calculate speed, distance and time, converting measures, space and shape and algebraic expressions. The pupils’ weaknesses outweighed their strengths.

“Like in language, in mathematics learners also responded better to visual cues than to textual prompts.”

Some of the proposals include that regular high quality school-based assessment in line with ANA should be practised, homework should be given regularly, maths formulae displayed on classroom walls, and that pupils should write at least one summary a week of any text that they have read in their spare time and parents should assist.

“Investing time in developing learners’ conceptual understanding in maths remains a critical determinant of effective teaching and learning,” the report added.

The report also urged principals to provide necessary support and materials, and districts to monitor schools.

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