"When you build a house you need a foundation": Teachers disagree with the Department's proposed 'no repeat policy'

"I'm sorry that the Minister thinks like that"
"I'm sorry that the Minister thinks like that"

In a recently published article on Parent24, we quoted creative parenting expert, Nikki Bush, as she highlighted the importance of the foundation phase.

“For school readiness children need to acquire strong perceptual skills in the preschool years through concrete learning and guided play experiences that will provide them with the foundations for numeracy and literacy to enable them to cope with the demands of Grade R."

Her comment came in response to the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga's proposed policy, suggesting foundation phase learners (Grade R to 3) should not and will not be repeat a grade if they fall short of the required promotion standard.

We received an overwhelming number of response from teachers who disagreed profusely with the Minister, many saying that the policy change will have harmful effects on the learners.

Must read: Everything President Ramaphosa promised our children in his #SONA2019 speech

Here's what our readers had to say: 

A good foundation is crucial

"When you build a house you need a foundation"

"As a retired educator I totally disagree in progressing learners. When you build a house you need a foundation otherwise the house will collapse.  You are not benefitting the learners you are disadvantaging them. You need to build a strong foundation for the learners.

You are developing illiterate learners.

An example: If a doctor only knows 30% of what he has studied, would you allow that doctor to operate on you? I don't think so.

You, as a department, have failed our children and future generations."

"The foundation that is [laid] in those 2 years, that makes a big impact"

"As a foundation phase teacher, I have seen the way children gain knowledge when they repeat a year, especially in grade 1 and 2. It is the foundation that is [laid] in those 2 years that makes a big impact. Especially with regards to reading skills, vocabulary and other language skills. 

Mathematics skills that they could not grasp the previous year, most of them grasp in the repetition year. Due to the high workload grade 4 learners have there [is] no time for repetition or enhancement of skills they had lacked to master in the foundation phase.

I have witnessed learners who had failed with Level 1s and 2s and the next year they had 5s and 6s on their report cards. [They keep] those marks when they progress to the higher grades." 

Also read: Education in South Africa: hits and misses since the very first SONA'

"It is human error responsible for child upbringing"

One teacher said the foundation phase to proper education is synonymous to a child's developmental milestones. One cannot go to the other without having passed through and mastered the basics.

"1. An infant has to learn that repeated sucking on a breast that gives no milk may yield some results so he does [continue suckling].

2. He learns to go there but can't crawl but [he] has to learn that repeated crawling on stomach may get him there so he does.

3. The list is endless, he walks one step, falls, stands up again, and tries and falls until he is perfect.

4. By the time they reach that school-going age, they have naturally learnt from trial and error.

5. It is human error responsible for child upbringing that removes from the child this God-given lesson by trying to give them all they need, even doing everything for them. I understand for black parents it is due to the fact that many of us grew up lacking many things so we make a vow that our kids must never lack anything.

6. As a school teacher myself, I believe a child who repeats a class at any grade is not being disadvantaged unless parents or teachers show them how less worthy they are for repeating that class.

7. It is the attitude and the reactions of those who matter most to the child that has an impact on how the child takes failure.

8. It is quite true that most of us parents have come to appreciate that levels of development are unique for each individual. So those are aware of the role to play in child development.

9. In each grade a level of knowledge in subject matter gets higher as you progress. How do we expect a level 2 mind, not coping, to suddenly cope with level 3 and 4? Are we not going to run a risk of never succeeding with that learner? Who has really done justice to the Grade 12 low pass rate and found that poor progress results in foundation phase has no direct contribution.

I'm sorry that the Minister thinks like that.

It is laughable to pretend this is still a recommendation, it is already happening."

- Nolusindiso

Also see: Here’s what teachers look for when kids start school

"We need to go back to basics"

"It is really very sad that we have reached this stage in our lives where people are under the impression that foundation skills are not important. 

As a grade 4 teacher we are already struggling with most of our kids that cannot read with understanding and that cannot even add up number bonds of 10. Who is to be blamed for this?

I blame the education system for it. It is sad to see that most of the kids in general have no concept or clue of what's going on.

The system focuses mainly on administration and there's so little time for actual teaching. They want to introduce different methods for numeracy that only confuses the child. Never in your entire life is your boss going to ask you to work out a sum in a particular method.

We need to go back to basics.

If the child cannot cope with the work in grade 1 how is he or she going to cope with grade 2 work? It is so frustrating for teachers and it drains us because most of the kids cannot cope with the workload of the grade they are in.

I also feel sorry for our very bright learners, because there isn't really anything in place for them.

We also have kids that [are] not educationally strong in any subject. They are getting lost in the system. Bring back the skills like your needle work, wood work, cooking classes etc. This would at least equip them to become entrepreneurs. This will also avoid the discipline problems that we have at school."

"This is only a push to remove the backlog"

"As a foundation phase teacher who already has 5 learners failing this year alone, the thought of sending them over to grade 3 is mind blowing when they can’t even spell, do sums or write properly. It’s beyond comprehension that any expert would suggest moving a child along in the system.

Do we give adults licenses to drive when they fail? Do we use the same criteria at university level? This is only a push to remove the backlog instead of addressing the need for ECD centers and more special need schools.

The people in charge continue to mess up our system. First with their ridiculous proposal of dropping the pass rate to 30% and now this."

Chat back:

What are your thoughts on the proposed no repeat policy? Are children who repeat between grade R and 3 gaining "absolutely nothing"? Should we be focusing more attention on the foundation phase?

Send us an email with your opinion and we publish it.

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