Motshekga sounds alarm over maths competence

2357559 INLSA Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga

Michelle Jones

Education Writer

BASIC Education Minister Angie Motshekga has decried as “worryingly low” Grade 9 pupils scoring an average of only 13 percent nationally in standardised maths – 17 percent in the Western Cape.

A larger percentage of Western Cape pupils also performed at higher levels – 5 percent of Western Cape pupils achieved 50 percent and more, compared to 2 percent nationally.

At the Gauteng release of the results of the annual national assessment (ANA) yesterday, Motshekga said: “While not unexpected, the results for Grade 9, particularly for mathematics, are a cause for great concern. These results explain to a very large extent why, among many other reasons, we have such high failure and dropout rates at grades 10 and 11.”

Grade 9 pupils wrote the tests for the first time this year.

Limpopo pupils scored the lowest, with an average percentage mark of just 9 percent. Western Cape pupils achieved 48 percent for the home language test, compared to 43 percent achieved nationally, and 37 percent for the first additional language test, compared to 35 percent at a national level.

The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) report, which analysed the results, said the Grade 9 pupils’ performance in maths was “below expectation and will therefore receive the immediate attention of the DBE through additional and more intensive structured intervention programmes”.

The report continued that the pattern performances in maths results showed a decline from Grade 1 (68 percent) to Grade 9 (13 percent).

“As a base line, the average mark of 13 percent at Grade 9 level was worryingly low. It is evident that more focused interventions are needed at the intermediate and senior phases.”

Education MEC Donald Grant was unable to comment on the results yesterday but would do so after he had time to study and evaluate the report’s contents.

DA basic education spokeswoman Annette Lovemore said she was seriously concerned about the very poor performance in maths by pupils in grades 6 and 9.

“Mathematics scores in fact get progressively worse the higher the grade. The average for mathematics

for Grade 1 was 68 percent, while the average for Grade 6 and 9 are 27 percent and 13 percent respectively. Urgent intervention must take place to stem this adverse pattern.”

Nicholas Spaull, an education and poverty researcher at Stellenbosch University, said the Grade 9 maths results stood out as particularly bad among “across the board” poor results.

“The kids aren’t getting a foundation in literacy and numeracy,” he added.

Education expert Graeme Bloch said the decline in maths results was a big problem.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa president Basil Manuel said the poor performance in Grade 6 and 9 mathematics was disconcerting. He said interventions put in place were clearly not good enough.

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