Teachers oppose 20% pass mark for maths

Cape Town - A circular sent out by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) states that a pupil in Grade 7, 8 or 9 who does not achieve 40% in mathematics should be "condoned" if they achieve 20% or above.

While the DBE has used the word "condone" instead of "pass", these pupils will effectively pass to the next grade, GroundUp reported.

"We are setting these children up for failure," a primary school teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

"Now we are sending children to the next grade who didn't fully grasp the grade they were coming from."

"Some of these children will drop out because they cannot cope with the pressure. It is not nice for a child to fail, but at least they get to grasp what they need before getting to the next grade. They will be condoned till Grade 9 then they will be stuck in Grade 10 when they can no longer get condoned."

GroundUp also spoke to two high school principals in Cape Town townships.

One said: "It would be better if the department would provide people to help these kids and to work hand in hand with them."

Another said that the instruction would only cause pupils to struggle even more in the next grade.

Too late in the year

Even though he didn't agree with the instruction he would have to comply because it came from the department.

He said he also worried that pupils would be happy with being promoted to the next grade because to them this would mean that they passed, when in actual fact, they did not.

Both principals felt that the circular came very late in the academic year and their schools had already determined which pupils had passed and which had not.

They said they heard about the change only on Monday and found it confusing.

A DBE statement on Thursday said the circular had been issued urgently after reports from across the country of poor results because of the compulsory requirement of learners to achieve 40% in maths.

The department said the circular "should only be considered as an interim measure for 2016".

Spokesperson for the Western Cape education department Millicent Merton said it was "regrettable" that the national department's decision was "communicated at such a late stage in the school year".

She said her department would engage with the DBE "on the timing of such decisions".

Equal Education deputy general secretary Ntuthuzo Ndzomo said: "The question should be, what is making it difficult for these children to obtain the 40% mark instead of taking a quick solution which might not help in the long term."

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