Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Progressed pupils must ‘close the gap’ with remedial work - experts

By Karen Singh Time of article published Dec 1, 2020

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Durban - Education experts believe pupils progressed to the next grade would benefit from remedial work to close the gap created by the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic on teaching and learning this year.

The department sent a circular to all schools, giving them permission to increase marks by up to 5% in up to three subjects to help pupils proceed to the next grade in grades 4 to 9.

This is an increase over the extra 2% that was available last year, with this change being attributed to the interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Education expert and Dean of the Humanities faculty at Wits University, Ruksana Osman, said the 5% became significant if it meant a failing pupil was progressed.

“The gaps for such a pupil, especially in maths and reading, will be important to remediate,” she said.

She added that remediation was necessary to prevent the gap from persisting in later years. Osman said it was important to remember that the current pass mark was already 30% for some subjects.

Professor Kobus Maree, from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Educational Psychology, said the influence of the pandemic on teaching and learning had been huge.

Maree said remedial teaching that included the re-teaching of certain topics seemed to be the logical solution.

He said pupils needed to be supported, especially in disadvantaged areas.

“Sadly, many pupils receive little or no support at home while others are supported in every conceivable way.”

Maree questioned how the department came to a 5% increase as opposed to a higher or lower figure.

“What is their rationale? On what research was the decision taken?” he asked. He said he had also learnt that the department had decided in favour of automatic progression from grades 1 to 3.

“Taken together, these decisions point to deep-seated underlying, structural problems in the education system. How well prepared are pupils, for instance, when they enter school? What about the quality of teaching?” Maree asked.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education director, Professor Labby Ramrathan, supported the department’s decision because of the challenges schools faced as a result of the pandemic.

“My view is that we should not be strict in terms of the protocol that we normally follow, mainly because of the unevenness in the way that pupils have had access to learning material, and what was able to be covered in the time that was available,” he said.

He said 2020 had to be excused as an extraordinary year.

Ramrathan said the previous year’s assessment was used as a gauge to progress pupils.

“Adding 5% to the mark does not materially alter the kind of competence that the pupils would have had,” he said.

He added that pupils would have ample opportunity to understand and catch up in areas deemed insufficiently covered after they progressed to the next grade.

Ramrathan added that this difficult year should be seen as an opportunity for the department to review the content of what was taught, as well as the teaching and learning process.

“We really need to think about this as a year that opens up a lot of opportunities to revisit what we do at schools, how we teach and how we assess pupils.”

The Mercury

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