Annual national assessment

Poor maths results 'a cause for great concern' – Motshekga

Grade 9 pupils need immediate attention to improve maths ability
maths needs improvement.jpg

Grade 9 pupils across South Africa achieved a paltry 12.7% average in mathematics in the Department of Basic Education’s second national assessment that tests ability in home language, first additional language and maths – regarded as the key foundational skills in basic education.

Grade 9 pupils joined Grades 3-6 in the assessment for the first time in 2012.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the results at a media briefing in Tembisa yesterday (3 December). The tests were conducted among 7.2 million pupils at 24 000 schools across the country, and aim to diagnose problems at schools so that intervention strategies can be devised.

Motshekga agreed that the poor Grade 9 results, particularly in maths, were "a cause for great concern". "These results explain to a very large extent why, among many other reasons, we have such high failure and drop-out rates at Grades 10 and 11," she added.

Pupils up to Grade 5 had marginally improved their mathematics ability, but Grade 6 pupils, who achieved an average score of 30% in last year’s national assessments, achieved only 27% average this year.

Grade 3 pupils showed the biggest improvement in mathematics, from an average of 28% last year to 41%.

Limpopo ranked last with an average pass rate for mathematics of 8.5%, while the Western Cape topped the list with an average of 16.7%.

In the language tests, Grade 1 pupils achieved 58% in their home language, down 1% from last year. Grade 9 pupils scored 35% for their first additional language and 43% for their home language.

The majority of pupils achieved less than 50% in the tests.

Annette Lovemore, Democratic Alliance spokesperson on Basic Education, warned that the poor performance in maths by Grade 6 and 9 pupils pointed to a need for "urgent intervention", as the assessment reflected maths scores becoming "progressively worse the higher the grade".

Education expert Graeme Bloch said the decline in maths results was "a big problem", and that "there is a lot of work that needs to be done".

Motshekga said last year’s national assessment tests had strengthened the capacity of teachers to deliver literacy and numeracy curricula.

However, University of the Witwatersrand School of Education associate professor Brahm Fleisch said further analysis was needed to test whether interventions by the department were having any effect on the quality of education, as last year's tests had taken place in February and covered a full year’s work, but this year the testing had been done in September.

The Department of Basic Education said Grade 9 pupils would receive immediate attention "through additional and more intensive structured intervention programmes".

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