No mid-year exams – no problem, education expert says

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Another year of Covid, another tough time for Grade 12 students.
Another year of Covid, another tough time for Grade 12 students.
NoSystem images/Getty Images

Just like last year, those poor Grade 12s are facing a tough time ahead to make it to the end of their school career.

And now their mid-year exams have been scrapped by the education department due to the upset caused by Covid-19 prevention measures.

Many students have lost a lot of school time, so the idea behind the decision is they will now have more capacity to complete the curriculum.

The value of mock exams is that they provide students with an opportunity to prepare for their final exams a few months down the line. They are able to see how far they have come and how much ground still needs to be covered. But they are not essential, an education expert says.

Indeed, it’s possible to turn this negative into a positive and use the extra time to their advantage, says head of faculty at The Independent Institute of Education, Nola Payne.

“Unfortunately, like the class of 2020 before them, the class of 2021 are again facing the most important year of their school careers under very difficult and unusual circumstances,” Nola says.

“As pointed out by Minister Angie Motshekga, many Grade 12s would have lost as much as 60% of teaching time this year, on top of the fact that they didn’t finish last year’s curriculum. Additionally, they also had to sacrifice holiday time to make up for lost teaching days.”

Here are Nola's five tips to help them through the months to come.

Read more | My story | Why I decided to go back to class after failing matric in 2019

Five steps to success

1  Make the most of teaching time.

It’s important to make the choice that you’re going to do the best you can with the resources and support available, and even get a little creative in the process, Nola says.

“Get as much as possible from your contact classes, and be sure to do all you can to grasp key concepts. If you don’t understand something, keep asking for assistance and clarification until you do.

“If you are studying at home and you find there’s something you don’t understand, keep a list of questions to ask your teachers when you are back in class again.

“Don’t just move on to the next thing and think you are going to come back to challenging work later. Steadfastly build on your knowledge so you can continue with confidence,” she advises.

2  Take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Matric is a tough year under any circumstances, but the last two years have been super hard.

“Unfortunately, things didn’t return to normal at the strike of midnight on 31 December 2020, and the tough times continue to this day. The events of the past year have left their mark on the psyches of all, and matrics should understand it’s okay to not be okay given the circumstances.

“If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, recognise and acknowledge this fact, and reach out to a trusted adult for support and assistance.

“Try to look after your physical wellbeing as much as possible by getting enough sleep, fresh air, and exercise if you are up to it. When things get too much, take a timeout, practise deep breathing, and return to the task at hand when you are feeling better,” Nola suggests.

Read more | My story | Dear matrics, don't despair – I got a D in science and now I'm doing my PhD

3  Take the initiative with your learning.

Even though you don’t have official mid-year exams, you can still create your own and write them either alone or with friends.

“Get past exam papers from your school library, your teacher or online, and simulate an exam environment. Sit down with your clock and all the supplies necessary and pretend you are in fact writing an exam within the allotted time.

“This will give you a good framework from which to proceed with your learning. You’ll be able to see whether you need to work faster, get a feel for the different formats of questions, and also insight into which work requires additional attention,” Nola says.

“After completing the paper, you and your study partners can go over the questions together, which is an additional learning opportunity.”

4  Find and use additional resources.

Since the pandemic began last year, education departments loaded a host of additional resources on their websites, including exam and study tips and past papers.

The SABC also started scheduling curriculum support lessons that can be viewed for free.

“And there’s a myriad of videos on YouTube that can assist with those subjects or concepts in which you need additional help,” Nola says.

5  Keep the end goal in mind.

Although the environment may not be ideal for performing at your best, if you keep the future in mind and connect it to your daily efforts, you’ll be able to keep the momentum going as you build on the small victories of each day, Nola says.

“Always remember what you are working towards. By doing your best every day, you’ll be able to finish your year to the best of your ability, which will open up opportunities for the future.

“Start considering your options for next year, and remember that universities and private higher education institutions are aware of the continuing difficulties facing this year’s matrics.

“If you need help with your future vision, or even motivation to complete the year with a bang, don’t hesitate to visit a respected campus near you for help, support and guidance,” she adds.

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