‘Majority of learners won’t do mathematics in Grade 10’: Education D-G

09 December 2016 - 10:52 By TMG Digital
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The Department of Basic Education (DBE) on Thursday said its decision to instruct public schools to condone all Grade 7 to 9 pupils who have obtained 20% in mathematics was a “usual administrative measure” to correct an error in its curriculum policy.

Director-general Hubert Mathanzima Mweli said on Thursday that the “majority of learners” would not do mathematics in Grade 10‚ but would rather opt to do technical mathematics or mathematical literature.

“Twenty percent in mathematics‚ when you are going to do mathematical literature or technical maths‚ is sufficient because you are not going to do mathematics‚” Mweli told 702.

He noted the outrage that followed the emergence of the condonation‚ and said the department expresses “regrets and profuse apologies for the confusion”‚ and added that “we issued a circular to correct an error in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement” (CAPS).

Mweli described this as “a usual administrative measure when an error is identified in the policy”.

It had been picked up‚ he said‚ when the minister travelled to all nine provinces and met with educators and unions.

“They said to us‚ ‘What is the rationale of insisting that a precondition for a learner to pass should be to get mathematics at 40% when learners are not going to do‚ the majority of them‚ are not going to do mathematics at Grade 10’‚” said Mweli.

“We are aligning the requirements of the senior phase to the requirements of the national senior certificate. You would appreciate that for the requirements of the national senior certificate you can pass at 40% and 30%.

“We are also saying that for the senior certificate you really don’t need to pass at 40% if you are not going to do mathematics. For instance‚ you could do technical mathematics‚ you could do maths lit‚ and therefore you don’t need to pass at 30 or 40% in mathematics.”

Mweli denied the special condonation dispensation was an expedient move to push failing learners through.

“Whether you change the policy or not‚ there will be those that will repeat‚” he said.

On Thursday‚ the DBE released a statement saying: “The urgency of issuing the circular arose from reports received from school principals and provincial officials across the country alerting the DBE of the extremely poor performance of Senior Phase learners due to the compulsory requirement of learners having to pass Mathematics at 40%.”

Promotion and progression requirements in the CAPS “resulted in raising the pass requirement for home language to 50% and including mathematics as a compulsory pass requirement at 40%”.

“This implies that it is compulsory for a learner to pass two languages‚ one of which is the home language and must pass mathematics‚ in order to be promoted. Concern has been raised during the academic year from within the sector that the current CAPS promotion requirements need to be reviewed and policy review in this regard is underway‚” the statement said.

“However‚ in order not to disadvantage the current cohort of learners‚ a special condonation dispensation was urgently required to accommodate learners whose promotion to the next grade may be adversely affected by the compulsory requirement of passing mathematics at level 3 (40%).

“It should be noted that the decision to apply a condonation dispensation in view of the stringent pass requirements‚ was an administrative decision that had to be made within the limited time available. The circular should only be considered as an interim measure for 2016 and is only applicable for Grades 7‚ 8 and 9.”

Teacher unions said that promoting learners who fail mathematics is not the issue - the DBE should be dealing with the “underlying problem” of why pupils are failing the subject.

“There is nothing wrong with the principle of the circular. We understand an intervention has to be made‚ but this opens a door to investigate the causes of this problem [learners failing maths]. This is a national problem‚” said National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa’s executive director‚ Basil Manuel.

He said it did not make sense that learners in Grade 7 to 9 were required to obtain a 40% pass mark for maths‚ while those in Grade 10 to 12 were required to get a 30% pass mark.

“Why are there differentiations in pass requirements? We have asked the department to look into this.

“There must be an underlying problem if children are failing maths. The problem is what gave rise to children failing maths.”

- TMG Digital

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