Dismal 10% average for Grade 9 maths

By NONTOBEKO MTSHALI Time of article published Dec 5, 2014

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Ten percent. This is the average mark that Grade 9 pupils scored for maths in this year’s annual national assessment (ANA).

Announcing the results in Johannesburg on Thursday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she was saddened and disappointed that the senior phase (Grades 7 to 9) was not responding to the department’s interventions, unlike the foundation phase (Grades 1 to 3).

More than 7 million pupils from Grades 1 to 9 wrote the national assessment – now in its third year – in September. Grades 7 and 8 took part for the first time.

The assessment is not used to grade pupils. It is a diagnostic tool that tests children’s maths, language and literacy skills and whether they know what they were supposed to have learnt in previous grades.

Motshekga said she was happy with the steady, year-on-year improvements of the results in lower grades.

“I strongly believe if you can sort out the foundation phase and intermediate phase (Grades 4 to 6), we have dealt with half of our problems, so I was very happy that the system keeps improving in a sustained way,” she said.

“With Grade 9, I was extremely disappointed. I thought we understood where the problems were, I thought we had put interventions in place and I was completely saddened (when I saw the results),” Motshekga said.

Last year, Grade 9s scored a 14 percent average for maths from 2012’s 13 percent average.

This year, the average maths score was 10 percent.

“Across the different phases, there has been good teaching of factual information, but not sufficient management of logical reasoning, which is a critical mathematical skill.

“The results of the 2014 ANA indicate that the performance of learners in the senior phase require immediate and radical interventions, which we’ll be announcing (soon),” she added.

“When we came into office, we committed ourselves to increase the number of learners taking maths and science, and if we’re not making the breakthrough this is not going to be possible. We’re also experiencing shortages of teachers who are teaching maths and science, and if we don’t produce them… we’re going to have a recurring problem.

“We won’t have enough people to teach maths and science, let alone supply the industry with the skills that we require,” Motshekga said.

She said for the department’s interventions to produce the desired results, there must be accountability in the system.

“We have undertaken a massive task of developing binding performance agreements and work plans that officials throughout the system will sign for the 2015/16 academic year,” Motshekga said.

“Work is already under way to determine key performance indicators for district directors, circuit managers and curriculum advisers which are aligned to learner-performance, particularly in ANA and the national senior certificate,” she said.

President of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, Basil Manuel, said: “Despite the poor results in some grades, there will be much to be gained from the 2014 ANA results, provided that it will be used to inform teacher-development and specific interventions.”

He warned against a developing trend that involved schools becoming so fixated with the ANAs that they stopped teaching what they were supposed to.

“There is a phenomenon developing in schools referred to as ‘ANArisation’, meaning that the curriculum ceases to be taught and the focus is on preparing learners to write the ANA by dedicating days of the week for such training, such as ‘ANA Fridays’,” Manuel said.

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