School year tackled

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The Department of Basic Education has published the updated academic calendar for schools in South Africa for 2021.

While the latest delay is not as disruptive as those seen in the 2020 academic year, schools are still expected to implement measures to make up for lost teaching time.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education said that it welcomed the intention to hold extracurricular classes to ensure that learners will be adequately prepared for examinations.

The committee also welcomed the plans for additional support to teachers in relation to learning and assessment guidelines to support teachers in the implementation of the recovery plan.

The committee called on the Department of Basic Education to ensure that schools have replacement teachers so that teaching and learning continues in those cases where teachers are unavailable due to increased risk caused by comorbidities.

Education experts have already warned that the delayed 2021 school calendar, in combination with lost teaching time in 2020, is likely to have a significant impact on South African learners.

In a briefing to Parliament on 20 January, the Department of Education’s director-general, Mathanzima Mweli, said that younger learners were particularly at risk of forgetting about skills and knowledge acquired at school if they stop learning for extended periods of time.

“This creates a challenge of ‘accumulated gaps’ as they continue into further grades,” he said.

At the other end of the scale, Mweli said that the department was concerned about the Gr. 12 class of 2021, who lost significant teaching time as Gr. 11 learners in 2020.

“We have narrowed the curriculum as part of a process known as ‘trimming’, which means that these students were not exposed to the full curriculum.

“However, in matric, they will be examined on the full contents of Gr. 10, Gr. 11 and Gr. 12.

“The further delay of teaching this year places a huge burden on the system, as we now not only have to catch up on Gr. 12 content, but also on the Gr. 11 content which was lost last year,” Mweli said.

“It is going to be extremely difficult for the education system to recover the learning losses.”

New school term dates

  • 15 February to 23 April;
  • 3 May to 9 July;
  • 26 July to 1 October; and
  • 11 October to 15 December.
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