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Pretoria - Seven million pupils across the country sat for the Annual National Assessments on Tuesday to test their literacy and numeracy skills.
Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy said she hoped the results would improve this year.
“I am confident about the literacy assessments because we have been doing a lot of work with the Gauteng primary literacy strategy. I think we will see improvements in literacy.
“I am worried about the maths assessments.”
The assessments are written by pupils in Grades 1 to 6 and Grade 9. They are used to gauge pupils’ competence in literacy and numeracy.
Last year, only 42 percent of Grade 4 Gauteng pupils achieved adequately in maths and only 35.9 percent achieved 50 percent and more in the tests.
In home language, the Western Cape had the highest percentage - 63 percent - of Grade 4 pupils who achieved adequate and higher levels of performance. Limpopo had the lowest, 12.1 percent.
In first additional language, Gauteng had the highest percentage, 36.9 percent, of Grade 4 pupils who achieved adequate and higher levels of performance.
The assessments are being written until Friday at public and independent schools. In Gauteng, 1.5 million pupils are writing the tests.
Creecy said: “We hope at least to achieve the 50 percent mark that has been set by the president, and maybe one day we will have good performance like we do in the matric results. There really are challenges in this area. If we do not get the foundations right, we will continue to have learners who are scared of taking pure maths when they get to high school.
“By the time the learners get to Grade 6, there are backlogs and it is hard to deal with them. Getting numeracy in the foundation phase right is very important.”
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga agrees that Grade 9 maths is an important area to concentrate on.
“In 2012, the Grade 9 mathematics performance was particularly low and this has raised some pertinent questions about mathematics teaching at this level. We are confident that relevant interventions have taken place and we will see an improvement in this year’s results.”
A lot of effort had been put into preparing the assessments.
“Teachers have been trained to administer these tasks under standardised conditions across all schools. Special mechanisms in place to ensure that the marking by teachers is tightly controlled and quality-assured,” Motshekga said.
“Sample scripts from every class in each school will be collected and remarked at a central venue in the province, to ensure the school marking is of the appropriate standard.”
The president of the National Professional Teachers of South Africa, Basil Manuel, said previous assessments had been a mixed bag.
“Some teachers felt they were not appropriately set for the ages,” he said. “Last year’s Grade 9 maths (assessment) was disastrous. Teachers felt they were completely over the top.”
Manuel said Naptosa would check with schools by the end of the week to see if this year’s assessments had been appropriately set.