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Thu Dec 25 11:19:24 CAT 2014

Little to be proud of in assessments of pupils' performance

The Times Editorial | 04 December, 2012 00:06

The Times Editorial: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga describes the outcome of this year's annual national assessments at schools as her "proud privilege". But though the language competency of pupils in grades 1 to 6, and in Grade 9, has improved, their mathematics results cannot be described as anything but dismal.

Limpopo, the province that suffered major setbacks in education this year after textbooks were not delivered, performed shockingly, as expected. Of the 194164 pupils in Grade 9 who wrote the maths assessments, a mere 970 achieved 50% or better results. Not one scored more than 80%.

Though the other eight provinces' pupils performed better, the overall results remain worrying.

In Eastern Cape, only 12% of pupils in Grade 5 achieved 50% or better for maths, and Limpopo had even fewer, 7.4%.

The national average score for the Grade 6 maths assessment was 26.7%. Western Cape had the highest percentage, 19.9%, of Grade 6 pupils who achieved adequate and higher levels of performance in maths; Limpopo had the lowest, 4.6%.

There seems to be a disparity between what the assessments scores say about the current generation of pupils and what the Department of Basic Education insists is the reality.

Even when the minister and her senior officials acknowledge problems, they seem to shy away from admitting that education in South Africa is in crisis.

It has repeatedly been said that maths and science are vital school subjects because they are among the crucial skills this country needs.

Of course, the assessments are good indicators of what needs to be done to strengthen public schools and equip our nation's children adequately.

But if not used as a spur to action, and without an acceptance that we have an education crisis, the assessments will be nothing more than an expensive exercise in proving that we are creating a nation of dunces.

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