Home South African News Proposed mark changes ‘will severely disadvantage’ pupils

Proposed mark changes ‘will severely disadvantage’ pupils

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Education analyst Professor Graeme Bloch warned against the lowering of the pass mark, saying it would make pupils less keen to do well

Education analyst Professor Graeme Bloch warned against the lowering of the pass mark, saying it would make pupils less keen to do well File photo

Education experts say the proposal to remove maths as a compulsory requirement to pass the year and to reduce the pass mark of a home language to 40% won’t fix education’s problems, suggesting teaching methods and the curriculum should be reviewed instead. 

Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said they raised serious concerns at the “knee-jerk” reaction. 

“Particularly regarding Grade 9s, 85% of whom fail maths. There are thousands of teachers teaching Grade 9 who set different tests – you can’t just be happy to adjust the pass mark. The pass mark cannot be the only problem; they have to mine a little deeper to see how so many pupils can fail.”

He was commenting on the Department of Basic Education’s proposals that pupils pass four subjects at 40%, one of which was a home language, pass any other four subjects at 30%, and for maths to be removed as a compulsory pass requirement. Naptosa believed the curriculum may be too broad, or the way the subjects are taught may be problematic. 

“The majority of teachers teaching maths are not maths teachers. Perhaps the problem is with the methodology, they need to be trained on how to teach maths,” said Manuel. 

Naptosa, however, embraced the proposal to change the pass rate of the home language and did not view this as a dropping of standards as a vast majority of children were not being taught in their mother tongue. 

Education analyst Professor Graeme Bloch concurred on the teacher training but warned against the lowering of the pass mark, saying it would make pupils less keen to do well.

Professor Labby Ramrathan of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Education said that while the proposed changes may be considered in the best interest of pupils who had difficulty with these subjects, it was not good for the quality and credibility of the school education system. “The graduates of the system will ultimately be the ones severely disadvantaged.”

He believed it was not the pupils who were challenged, but the curriculum structure was problematic. He said it was overloaded, restrictive and had an “everybody-must-do” narrative. 

“It purports to be inclusive but from my research it is exclusionary and attempts to take on a functionalist perspective within a competitive environment rather than a developmental perspective.”

Ramrathan added the “cosmetic changes” proposed were a political stance to increase pupil throughput rates which supported a notion of successful school education and not competence.

The Mercury