Johannesburg - The Annual National Assessment (ANA) results have become a powerful tool in assessing the health of the education system, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Thursday.
"It was never intended and it will never be used for any other purposes other than its original intent," she said at the official release of the ANA results in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg.
The ANA was introduced to gauge the extent to which the basic education system was impacting on the critical areas of numeracy and literacy.
"ANA is a diagnostic tool to help the sector to self-correct," she said.
"Some among us have opined that ANA is being used as a tool to punish and antagonise teachers. Let me make it clear today that the department of basic education and all its nine provincial education departments place a premium on the value of our teachers.
"We believe that teachers are the heartbeat of a functioning school system. It is often said that the quality of education cannot exceed that of its teachers. We cannot expect teachers to promote quality learning and teaching alone."
The results of the 2014 ANA indicated that the performance of pupils in the senior phase required immediate and radical intervention.
Performance in mathematics and languages was below the minimum promotion levels of 40% and 50% respectively.
"The overall performance in ANA 2014 shows an upward trend in performance with average percentage scores increasing by a maximum of 8% in mathematics in Grade 1 and also increases in all other grades, except Grade 9.
"The proportion of learners who achieve acceptable levels of performance stand at over 80% in Grade1 mathematics," she said.
"We have also exceeded the president’s target of achieving at least 60% in both language and mathematics at the Grade 3 level. The figures stand at 64% and 65% for Grade 3 language and mathematics, respectively."
At Grade 6 level the target had been exceeded in home language with an average of 77%.
"Our Achilles heel remains the unacceptably low performance in Grade 9 mathematics. All ANA results and diagnostic reports have flagged the problem of mathematics teaching and learning throughout the system."
She said an intensive investigation would be instituted into what factors contributed to low performance in schools offering Grades 7 to 9, generally and Grade 9 mathematics in particular.
The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA (Naptosa) said the administration of the ANA was a huge undertaking considering that the ANA was written by approximately seven million pupils from Grade 1 to 9 at both public and subsidised private schools.
"Educators, school managers, and departmental officials must be complimented on the accomplishment of such a mammoth task," said union president Basil Manuel.
"Naptosa noted that the department of basic education interventions in numeracy and literacy had resulted in improved learner performance in some grades."
He said the union believed focused interventions on content knowledge and skills, both in numeracy and literacy, were needed in the foundation phase to ensure a strong basis for mathematics in the higher grades.
"The poor result of 11% in mathematics in Grade 9 is of concern to Naptosa, there is clearly something amiss in the senior phase", he said.