SA pupils’ dismal tests

2011-06-29 00:00

THE score of the average South African sixth grader in mathematics and languages is less than 30%.

That is the dismal finding of the Annual National Assessment (ANA), which tested more than six million primary school pupils in maths and languages for the first time this year in nationally set exams.

Only 12% of the grade six pupils tested scored more than 50% for mathematics.

Performance was as low as 19% for Mpumalanga, while the 50% pass mark even eluded the highest-ranked province, the Western Cape, which scored 43%.

For educationists who spoke to The Witness the results come as no surprise.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga yesterday announced the results after a two-month delay. The tests, written in February, are designed to assess the performance of pupils in the foundation phase (grades one to three) and the intermediate phase (grades four to six).

The testing is one of the department’s key strategies to improve pupil achievement by 2014.

KwaZulu-Natal Education spokesperson Mbali Thusi had not seen the results when contacted by The Witness and could not offer a KZN break-down.

The results released by Motshekga show that the national average performance in literacy at grade three is 35%. In numeracy third-graders scored an average of only 28%.  

Only 17% of the third-graders tested scored more than 50% in numeracy, while 31% scored more than 50% in the literacy tests.

Performance among sixth graders was no better. The national average performance in languages for a grade six pupil is 28%, and for mathematics 30%. Again Mpumalanga, with 20%, was the worst performing province at this level, while the Western Cape again ranked the highest at 41%.

The tests come against the backdrop of embarrassing rankings in international benchmarks in past years, which saw South Africa ranking lower than much poorer countries such as Malawi.

This resulted in the country bowing out of the international race.

Experts who were contacted by The Witness would not comment in detail on the basis of the media statement, which provides very little of the essential data.

However, Professor Francis Faller of the Wits School of Education said the results confirm the need for targeted initiatives at national and provincial levels in the early years of schooling, especially the foundation phase, rather than an over-emphasis on school-leaving results alone, if the quality of education is to be significantly improved.

Carol Bertram, acting head of the School of Education in Pietermaritzburg, said the results will not surprise the Education Department. She said the percentages given also mask huge differences in the results produced by different schools.

Motshekga admitted that the results are worrying because if these critical skills of literacy and numeracy are not mastered pupils will struggle to progress in the system into post-school education and training.

She said some of her intervention plans will strengthen accountability within the schooling system, with teachers applying for head and deputy head posts required to enter performance contracts with clear targets.

The department is also in discussions about the teacher performance appraisal system.











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