Teachers in for a brush up

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ND St Anthonys1 INLSA Christabelle Pillay, left, and Samkeliso Shezi, both in Grade 6 at St Anthonys Primary School in Durban, page through their maths workbooks while their teacher, Vini Maharaj, assists other pupils. Picture: Gcina Ndwalane

Teachers involved in national assessment tests would need to brush up on their own skills at weekends or after hours, according to a plan by the Department of Basic Education to boost pupils’ results.

This followed the dismal results of the first assessment tests conducted in February last year. Many pupils, the tests revealed, could not even count and did not understand what they had been taught.

The department wants grades 1 to 6 and Grade 9 teachers to attend workshops where subject advisers would go over the content, emphasising sections considered vital for revision.

Teacher unions, however, have dismissed the latest plan by the department, saying any improvement in last year’s results, which ranged between 19 percent and 43 percent in different provinces, was unlikely.

“Something has horribly gone wrong in the education system, and it needs more than a diagnostic test to fix,” said Anthony Pierce, the KwaZulu-Natal chief executive of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA. “We are likely to have poor results like last year because not much has been done since the last (tests) were written. Putting a bandage over a wound will not make it heal tomorrow.”

More than 7 million pupils from the seven grades will participate in the annual national assessments between September 18 and 21 this year.

They will be tested on work done this year, as opposed to the last tests, which were set on work done in the previous grade. Department spokesman Panyaza Lesufi said an analysis of last year’s answer scripts showed that teachers had experienced difficulties explaining what pupils needed to do.

The assessments are standardised for languages and maths for grades 4-6, and numeracy and literacy for grades 1-3.

Nationally, Grade 3 pupils scored 28 percent for literacy last year, while Grade 6 pupils scored 28 percent for languages and 30 percent in maths.

In KZN, Grade 3 pupils got an average of 31 percent for numeracy and 35 percent for literacy, while Grade 6 pupils managed 29 percent for languages and 32 percent for maths.

Provincial performance in these two areas ranged between 19 percent and 43 percent, with the Western Cape faring the best and Mpumalanga the worst performer.

“Last year, children were just writing and were not ready,” Lesufi said. “They had come from a long holiday… but this time around, they would have been in the schooling system for about eight months… They should be ready.”

He said teacher training workshops and summits would be held in different provinces for those who where part of the assessments last year.

“Teachers would go back (to the classroom) knowing which areas should be highlighted when revising,” he said.

However, Allen Thompson, deputy president of the National Teachers’ Union, said: “The department needs to explain what is being looked for when marking these tests. Is it the logical thinking of the pupil, the correctness of the answer, or the understanding of the pupil?” - Daily News

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