Cape Town -111025. Matric students writing their final Accountancy exam at Zola Secondary School in Khayelitsha. Reporter: Michelle Jones.Pic: Jason Boud

KwaZulu-Natal - Educationists, still reeling from the bleak maths results that emerged in the Annual National Assessment, are stunned by the poor scores of pupils in the country’s most affluent schools.

According to the assessment report released by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga this week, the average Grade 9 pupil who attended a quintile five school – at the top end of the scale which determines funding for schools – where South Africa’s top public schools find themselves, failed the test along with their inadequately resourced counterparts.

While Grade 9 pupils in the very poorest schools (quintile one) scored a dismal average of 10.8 percent for maths, Grade 9 pupils at quintile five schools were also unable to master the curriculum, managing an average of just 23.7 percent.

Lynn Bowie, from the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Education, yesterday called the figures “quite shocking”.

Graeme Bloch, a visiting adjunct professor at the Wits School of Public and Development Management, was equally taken aback. “We’ve always known that our top pupils are not able to compete with those of other countries, such as Kenya… I am surprised.”

The Governing Body Foundation, an association of 700 school governing bodies, expressed doubt over the validity of the assessment.

Questionable results

“The results… raise so many questions that the entire project is called into question. It simply defies belief that only 12.7 percent of all pupils in our schools passed the Grade 9 maths test, and that less than 24 percent… in even our top (quintile five) schools were able to achieve a pass mark,” the foundation said in a statement.

“Much is made of the improvements of 17 percent and 13 percent in Grade 3 literacy and numeracy, but this pales into insignificance when one finds that only 2 percent of all Grade 9 pupils could score 50 percent or above in their maths test.

“This is in schools, remember, where the matric classes in the same year – and consistently over several years – have had 100-percent pass rates in matric maths, and where pupils have won international accolades in a variety of fields. The figures simply do not add up.”

As was the overall national trend, the averages in quintile five schools started at a high among Grade 1 pupils (77.3 percent), and then steadily fell, dropping to 39.6 percent in Grade 6.

Where the maths results were separated by province and by district (but not by quintile), KZN Umlazi district fared the best, with a 16-percent average. The overall average for KZN pupils was 12 percent.

Seven million pupils from more than 20 000 schools in the country wrote the assessment in September. They included Grade 3 and Grade 6 pupils from state-subsidised (low-fee) independent schools.

The maths scores for independent school pupils came in at 48 percent for Grade 3 (7 percent higher than public school pupils) and 37 percent for Grade 6 (10 percent higher than public school pupils). - The Mercury