The Eastern Cape matric pass rate has been lower than other provinces in the past.
The government and parents have been looking for possible explanations.
Dr Lindiwe Tshuma, a researcher at the Stellenbosch University, may have uncovered a possible reason for the poor results.
She said: “Grade 4 to grade 7 maths teachers in under-resourced schools in the Eastern Cape are not proficient in English. The language they are supposed to teach in and their knowledge of mathematical content is not up to scratch.”
Tshuma said the failure by teachers to master English and their lack of competence in the intermediate phase compromises the quality of maths teaching.
She said the country’s indigenous languages are yet to be fully developed to support mathematics instruction.
“Also ,these teachers are often non-specialists and have to teach maths due to a shortage of specialist maths teachers at primary school level.
“This is especially true in underresourced schools that cannot attract and retain better qualified teachers.”
She said if the status quo remained the same, the teachers’ poor language skills were likely to be passed on to pupils.
“We may want to ask who is failing the nation. Are the teachers failing the pupils or are the teachers’ educators failing the teachers, who in turn fail the pupils?”