Matriculants in poor schools will not be in a position to fully prepare for exams, the national executive committee of the South African Democratic Teachers' Union says.
In a statement released on Sunday, following a virtual meeting held by Sadtu’s top structure on Friday, the committee said many pupils, especially from disadvantaged communities, would be affected because of the intermittent closing and opening of schools due to the Covid-19 coronavirus and the levels of support that differed from schools based on the availability of infrastructure and resources.
The committee said:
- It wants to reiterate the union’s call for the basic education department to trim, reorganise and reset the examination papers for this year’s exams;
- It has resolved to urge the basic education department to delay the start of examinations from November 5 to 26 to allow pupils more time to prepare for the examinations; and
- It has noted that the combination of the June and November exams would affect the marking process as this would require additional markers with an extended period of marking to ensure quality and reliability.
The basic education department has been approached for comment. This story will be updated once its reaction has been received.
RETURNING TO SCHOOL
Sadtu’s national executive committee said the re-opening of schools needed to be managed well to avoid straining the system.
The committee said that 11% of schools were struggling to construct a timetable because of constraints of space and teacher availability, according to a joint teacher union survey on school readiness for the reopening of schools on Monday.
The committee said the basic education department should have used the short break from July 27 to fix all the problems to contribute in the suppression of the community transmissions.
It said that the policy of admitting a maximum of 50% of pupils a day – based on the different timetables adopted by schools and influenced by their contextual factors – must be ensured, and physical distancing must not be not compromised.
The committee said it was disappointed that the union was not consulted by the basic education department when the date for re-opening of schools for 2021 was announced.
It said the framework was also too rigid because Grade 12 markers, many of whom were Grade 12 teachers, would finish marking on January 22 and schools would open on January 25.
This would mean that these teachers would have hardly any time to rejuvenate.
The union’s top structure resolved to engage with the basic education department to ensure a workable school calendar and to provide psychosocial or therapeutic services for teachers, pupils and other education workers in schools.
It said there was a substantial increase in anxiety and depression among teachers and pupils and that the pandemic’s impact on teacher’s mental health was receiving little attention.
ON STANDARDISED TESTING
The committee has vowed to oppose this method of testing when pupils return to schools and called on the basic education department to adopt an assessment for learning based on school-based teaching and learning plans.
It said teachers, as professionals, should be allowed to use their professional judgment and implored on members in provinces to be vigilant and monitor that no standardised tests were written.
TRIMMING OF CURRICULUM
The committee condemned the basic education department’s plan to reduce the number of subjects for Grades 7 to 9.
It said unions and the basic education department had agreed that the curriculum should be trimmed for the short available time in the academic year.
Trimming the curriculum meant that the academic year would be extended because the pandemic had disrupted teaching and learning.
However, the committee said this did not mean that subjects should be reduced, but that only content in subjects would be reduced to focus on core concepts, skills, knowledge and attitudes.
The committee said the dropping of subjects would be detrimental to pupils as this would narrow their subject options and choices when they enter the Further Education and Training phase (Grade 10 to 12).
It said this would widen the gap between the resourced and under-resourced schools.
“The department wants to make things easier for itself at the expense of proper career pathing for the pupils,” the committee said, adding that basic education department was also not clear on what would happen to the teachers whose subjects were dropped.
IMPROVING READING IN EARLY GRADES
According to basic education department, the Early Grade Reading Study is a project aimed at building evidence about what works to improve the learning and teaching of early grade reading in schools.
It uses formal impact evaluation methodologies (randomised experiments) and makes extensive use of mixed methods (classroom observations and detailed case studies) to provide both quantitative estimate of what the impact of each intervention is on home language and English as a first additional language (language of teaching and learning) and to understand where, how and why different elements of interventions were working.
According to the basic education department, the majority of local pupils were being left behind in this regards, compared to their mates in the world.
The Sadtu committee said it had noted that the privatisation in and of education was being pursued by the suggested coaching model and questioned the rationale of undermining the subject experts in schools and circuits in favour of private coaches who were not working as teachers on a daily basis.
It said early grade reading should be done by the subject advisers and the school-based heads of departments (subject specialists).
The money that would be given to the private providers must be used to equip the teachers, the Sadtu committee said.
The union would engage with institutions of higher learning on how they could strengthen a model that informs initial teacher education, continuing teacher development programmes and curriculum policy.