Cape Town - More than 300 schools in the country are not teaching maths to Grade 12 pupils because there is no demand for it – and the Department of Basic Education wants to find out why because this will limit matriculants’ career options.
The department is implementing a plan to ensure that, within five years, every school offers maths.
In the Western Cape, 36 schools don’t have any Grade 12 pupils studying maths.
Academics have said the reason more pupils are choosing maths literacy instead of maths is that schools want to push up their matric pass rates.
Choosing maths literacy means they will not be eligible to study medicine, science and engineering, for which maths is a requirement.
Responding to parliamentary questions, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said there were 327 schools at which no Grade 12 pupils had registered to write matric maths. “This does not imply that the school did not offer mathematics, but rather there were no learners who registered for mathematics.”
The department was unable to “indicate precisely” why pupils were choosing maths literacy rather than maths.
“This matter will be investigated and the reasons will be provided when the investigation is completed.”
The department was working to increase the number of high school pupils who chose maths and wrote it as a matric subject.
It was also trying to improve performance in maths.
“The department has embarked on strategies like exposing learners to science camps, providing enrichment programmes for learners, and providing special incentives for girls to study the subject and science and technology subjects.
“The department prepared a special circular to all schools to guide subject combinations and emphasised the significance of mathematics.”
Figures given in the parliamentary reply show that the number of pupils who choose maths literacy is on the increase, particularly in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
The number of schools in the Western Cape at which no Grade 12 pupils have registered to write the matric maths has remained constant at 36 since 2012.
This year, 16 234 Grade 12 pupils have registered for maths, and 33 078 for maths literacy.
Motshekga has said she hopes that, within three years, 60 percent of pupils will be studying maths and that the number will eventually increase to 80 percent.
This was a realistic goal and could be achieved by helping pupils in the lower grades with maths, she said.
The DA’s spokeswoman on basic education, Annette Lovemore, said not all pupils should be pushed to take maths.
“We have to realise that some children are academically strong, some are practically inclined, others are creative spirits,” she said.
“Each individual child’s inherent abilities must be supported to full development. We have to measure quality accordingly,” she added.
Quentin Newman, principal of John Ramsay High in Bishop Lavis, said that in 2007 not one of the school’s Grade 12s passed maths.”The school decided not to have pure maths the next year,” he said.
Maths had been reintroduced in Grade 10, with the aim that these pupils would write it in matric.
Newman said pupils even struggled to cope with maths literacy. This had led to their battling with accounting.
Sydney Jantjies, principal of Silversands Secondary in Kuils River, confirmed that the school did not have any matric maths candidates this year. However, the school had reintroduced maths in Grade 10.
A number of principals declined to comment on Monday.