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MORE than a million KwaZulu-Natal pupils begin their annual numeracy and literacy tests on Tuesday, despite the work-to-rule protest by many teachers.
Provincial education authorities have however assured pupils that the industrial action by SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) members would not affect the third Annual National Assessments (ANA), to be written by 1 494 735 pupils in 6 294 schools in KZN.
The diagnostic tests are compulsory for all Grade 1 to 6 and Grade 9 pupils in public schools, while those at certain independent schools will write the Grade 3 or 6 papers, depending on the highest grade offered by the school.
Education superintendent-general, Nkosinathi Sishi, said the tests were unlikely to be disrupted because there was an understanding with Sadtu.
“The assessment for ANA is systemic so there should be no change in performance (as a result of work-to-rule),” he said.
Sadtu’s provincial secretary, Mbuyiseni Mathonsi, confirmed that there would be no disruptions on Tuesday to the matric trial examinations and the assessments.
“The work-to-rule continues. Our provincial executive committee is meeting today to get a mandate from our members on the way forward,” he said.
Provincial education spokesperson, Muzi Mahlambi, confirmed that as with matric trial examination papers, ANA papers would be collected from teaching centres and district offices.
Sadtu’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial deputy secretary, Nomarashiya Caluza, confirmed that none of their union members would be protesting outside these offices on Tuesday.
The national assessments are used to measure the level of literacy and numeracy in schools as a way to find what is working and what needs to be done to improve skills.
Sishi said the tests had influenced the way teachers focused on reading and writing.
While Grades 1 to 3 weren’t a concern, he said Grades 4 to 6 and Grade 9 presented challenges.
“We aren’t where we should be in the intermediate phase as well as Grade 9 so we should be worried,” he said.
The national Department of Basic Education wants at least 60 percent of pupils to achieve “acceptable” levels of performance.
In a diagnostic report released in December, key findings in language indicated that pupils couldn’t read with comprehension, had limited grammar knowledge and failed to produce meaningful written work.
Problems in numeracy highlighted included weakness in word problems; simple calculations involving speed, distance and time; as well as geometry and converting measures.
The average marks for maths declined as pupils progressed from Grades 1 to 9: An average of 68 percent was obtained in Grade 1, 41 percent in Grade 3, 27 percent in Grade 6 and 13 percent in Grade 9.
However, all grades showed improvement in results from 2011, except for Grade 6, which dropped from 30 percent in 2011 to 27 percent last year.
For languages, Grade 1 pupils scored an average of 58 percent last year, down from 59 percent in 2011.
Grade 9 showed an average of 43 percent for home language and 35 percent for first additional language.
Education Minister Angie Motshekga said Grade 9 maths performance was receiving special attention as last year’s results had been “particularly low”.
Department spokesperson, Panyaza Lesufi, said they considered levels acceptable when pupils could read, write and calculate.
“Besides Grade 9, who wrote for the first time last year, we are on the verge of reaching that level,” he said.
National Association for School Governing Bodies chairman, Reginald Chiliza, said all schools should be ready for the first literacy paper starting on Tuesday.
“For now we haven’t heard of any problems. Everybody is ready and, although the last couple of days (of work-to-rule action) have exacerbated problems, revision should have taken place,” he said.
Labby Ramrathan, an associate professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education, said preparation for the assessments was a cumulative process and should have been continuing throughout the year. He called on parents, teachers, schools and the department to come together to articulate what was needed to improve results.
“It’s a complex issue and no one party is to blame,” he said. “There is a reliance on schools for educational development but we need collaboration.”
Ramrathan said language was always an issue, particularly outside the urban areas where children had less exposure to English.
“I’m not a protagonist of any one language but if English is the language of instruction then children need more opportunity to read and write in English,” he said. - Daily News