Janessa Urquhart, CEO of Think Digital College in Pretoria, wrote to us to share her opinion on the proposed no-repeat policy.
This is what she has to say:
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) recently revealed that it would be reviewing its progression and promotion policies with a view to instituting a ‘no repeat policy’ which means that learners will pass through their Foundation Phase at school without repeating a grade, even if they fall short of the required standard.
While an argument can be made as to the benefit of avoiding a 'failure' label at such an early part of a learner’s education journey, the true benefit of such a policy will be to the department as it will assist in alleviating the bottleneck caused by the high failure rate (15% to 20%) between Grade 1 and Grade 3.
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This failure rate is largely due to the high number of learners not having access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres. Early childhood development is crucial in preparing children for school, particularly where children come from environments of low stimulation.
A deep wound
In a report on pre-primary education, UNICEF found that children who are enrolled in at least one year of pre-primary school are less likely to repeat grades or drop out, and go on to make meaningful contributions to the economy in later life.
Yet, only half of 3- and 4-year-olds participate in any early learning programme before they enter school in Grade R – and only half of these children attend programmes of sufficient quality.
Through this policy revision, the DBE will be putting a band-aid on a scratch that will eventually become a deep wound.
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The Foundation Phase is critical not only to abstract concept development but also to emotional development particularly with regards to conflict resolution.
With automatic promotion a guarantee, it is unlikely that learners will be monitored as extensively during these early years to ensure that they are developing as they should.
An impossible, and unrealistic, expectation
Not addressing a developmental issue early on will ultimately cause a child to fall further behind their peers. Imagine a learner not being able to grasp the symbolism of letters and numbers in Grades 1 to 3, trying to master algebra in later grades – an impossible, and unrealistic, expectation.
There will then be additional pressure on teachers in Grade 4 and above, to both teach, and remediate, in very large classes, disadvantaging other learners and negatively impacting on their educational outcomes.
If our aim as a country is to develop resilient learners who have the social, numerical and verbal skills to complete their schooling and make a meaningful contribution to our society and our economy, then we need to evaluate whether such a policy change will effectively place the needs of the education system above the needs of our learners.
Share your insights and opinions with us, and we could publish your submission. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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