South Africa urgently needs to fix the basic literacy and numeracy education in primary schools in order to prevent the fallout that occurs on high school level‚ says education expert Mary Metcalfe.
She says the country should have a consultative process to deal with poor levels of reading and writing in the foundation phase of the education system.
On February 23‚ the Department of Basic Education gazetted for public comments its intentions to lower the minimum mark required to progress in the senior phase — Grades 7‚ 8 and 9.
Currently these learners do not move to the next grade if they get below 50% for their home language.
The department now wants this home-language threshold reduced to 40%. It proposes that pupils should pass if they get 40% in their mother tongue and three other subjects. And‚ for the first time‚ achieving 30% in three subjects in the grades would see learners moving to the next grade.
But Metcalfe says the public should be discussing the real issues of the foundation phase in the education system and not just the pass percentage.
“The right conversation is how do we address the big issues within the education. This is the massive leaving of young people out of the [education] system after Grade 9 and 10. Secondly‚ [we need to discuss] why that happens – which is because we don’t get reading‚ writing and comprehension right in primary schools. That is where the national consultation needs to happen.
“We shouldn’t be worried about the pass mark‚ whether it is 42 or 58. We need to address the issues at primary schools so that we stop the loss of half of our children out of the education to a very bleak future.
“Learners are coming into Grade 8 and 9 with insufficient levels of literacy and numeracy from primary [school]. This means they haven’t learned what they should have in the previous grades. They then struggle to cope in Grade 8 and 9‚” she said. “We have to correct the learning issues in primary schools.”
Metcalfe added that the dropping of pass marks in specified grades to pass pupils has a direct impact on the pass percentage of the higher grades.
“We risk that every year by promoting learners who are not succeeding. Therefore‚ in Grade 10‚ 11 and 12 we lose half of the learners. The problem at the moment is that Grade 8‚ 9 and 10 is like a massacre in terms of student failure. The massive learner failure in those grades leads to a drop out. It is a consequence of poor primary-school education‚” she said.
In 2016‚ the department sparked an outcry when it instructed public schools to condone all those in Grades 7 to 9 who obtained 20% in mathematics.
by Penwell Dlamini – TimesLIVE