Motshekga’s stance ‘misrepresented’

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IOL angie class (36251406) INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga File photo: Itumeleng English

The misrepresentation of the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga’s stance on assessments as portrayed by you in your article (SEE RELATED ARTICLES ABOVE) is deeply concerning, says Troy Martens.

It is clear that your reporter did not understand exactly what the minister was talking about due to the fact that you confused the TIMSS and ANA assessments.

A very misleading statement was your opening sentence where you said “Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has defended the country’s poor showing in the ANA results saying South Africa has to start from a zero.”

Firstly the ANAs are only done in South Africa; they are our own home grown assessments that were developed as a diagnostic tool to address (problems) in the system. The country as a whole did not have a poor showing as you indicated in that statement and taking into consideration the grades that participated in the ANAs most of them performed at good or satisfactory levels.

The 2013 ANA results as taken from the minister’s speech when the results were released were: “In Grade 1, the national average performance in Literacy is 60 percent. It was 58 percent in 2012. In Numeracy, the national average performance is 60 percent, from 68 in 2012.

“In Grade 2, the national average performance in Literacy is 57 percent, (from) 55 in 2012. In Numeracy, it is 59 percent, from 57 in 2012.

“In Grade 3, the national average performance in Literacy stands at 51 percent, (from) 52 in 2012. While in Numeracy our (pupils) are performing at an average of 53 percent (from) 41 in 2012.

“In Grade 4, the national average performance in Language is 49 percent for Home Language and 39 percent for First Additional Language (from) 43 percent in Home Language and 34 percent in First Additional Language in 2012.

“In Grade 4, the average for Numeracy is 37 percent. It was also 37 in 2012.

“In Grade 5, the national average performance in Language is 46 percent for Home Language and 37 for First Additional Language, (from) 40 percent in Home Language and 30 in First Additional Language in 2012. In Numeracy, the national average performance is 33 percent, from 30 in 2012.

“In Grade 6, the national average performance in Language is 59 percent in Home Language (from) 43 in 2012 and 46 percent in First Additional Language (from) to 36 in 2012.

“This is an improvement of 16 percent in Home Language and 10 percent in First Additional Language. For Mathematics, the average performance is 39 percent (from) 27 in 2012.

“In Grade 9, the national average performance in Language stands at 43 percent (Home Language) (from) 43 in 2012, and 33 (First Additional Language) as compared to 35 in 2012. There is no change in Home Language; but a decrease of 2 percent in First Additional Language. In Mathematics, in Grade 9 the national average is 14 percent (from) 13 in 2012.”

At the ANC briefing the Minister referred to the Grade 9 ANA mathematics results; she cited them as deeply concerning and in need of urgent attention. She also outlined that she had established a task team to look into MST (Mathematics, Science and Technology) and was in the process of implementing the findings. She also went into further detail and mentioned that part of that would include the establishment of a MST office.

At no point did she ever defend “the country’s poor showing in the ANA results”, as erroneously suggested by you in your article and headline.


The question was asked of the minister: what is her view on critics who say that we should be aiming higher in the international assessments and should aim, for example, for the 10th position.

The minister explained that entering into these international assessments was not to compete with the chopsticks countries who achieve in the top positions but to rather use these assessments as a benchmark to better ourselves and identify where our challenges are.

She used an analogy of entering into a marathon that you may not enter to win but you enter to finish the race. To finish that race you have to be at a level of competence to participate and that not all countries in the world participate so there is no way that it can be accurate to say we are the worst performing.

Again you said “successive international ANA results, including those of Trends in Maths and Science Studies, have indicated that South African education although improving – was still behind compared with other countries. That sentence indicated that the reporter had no grasp of the education sector.


We have already indicated that the ANA (Annual National Assessments) are a South African internal assessment that we as the DBE conduct; furthermore the TIMSS are not conducted annually they are conducted once every five years.

I refer you to the minister’s speech at the release of the last 2013 ANA results where she referred to our TIMSS results:

“The results of international studies including Trends in Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) have corroborated our observations that sections of the education system are responding positively to the many interventions we have made.

“The latest TIMSS results (of 2011) showed that schools at the lower end of the performance spectrum, mainly schools in the less advantaged contexts, registered impressive improvements.

“In respect of our country, 2011 TIMSS pointed to improvements in mathematics and science competencies of Grade 9 learners when compared to Grade 9 learners tested in 2002.

“South Africa’s improvement in mathematics of 67 TIMSS’ points between 2002 and 2011, or 7 points per year on average, is among the steepest seen by any TIMSS participant. Only Ghana has seen a steeper improvement over this period.

“Our improvement is comparable to that experienced by Brazil in the last decade, probably the fastest and most consistent improver in any international testing system in recent years.”

The Minister again summarised this achievement in the media briefing but also went on to say that while we have made significant progress we are moving from a very low base and therefore we are not yet at a satisfactory level. She also mentioned the SAQMEC results which are a Southern African assessment and how we compare to other countries in Southern Africa, and again reiterated the need to do better (not defending any results as the overall tone of your article implies).


* Troy Martens is Deputy Director: Communications and spokesperson for the Minister of Basic Education

* Independent Newspapers regrets any factual errors in the report as mentioned above which may have led to a misrepresentation of the situation.

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