Written by: Paul Mabote
(Writer, Creative, Learner, Observer)
Last week was a defining moment for the matric class of 2019. The minister for Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga was to announce the national pass rate, and all over the country the announcement was eagerly awaited with anxious hearts and sweaty palms. On Wednesday the 8th of January 2020, the minister announced a pass rate of 81.3%, an increase of 3.1% from 2018.
All is good but looking closer, there is a concerning issue. The minister highlighted that throughout the years, more and more students have been taking up technical mathematics, and swerving away from pure maths. Among other problems, this imbalance translates into less and less students choosing accounting as a subject, as it is closely linked to pure mathematics.
Mrs Motshekga identified a weak mathematical foundation in children as the source, and said that by the time the learners reach grade 10, their mathematical skills are too superficial to be able to engage effectively with pure maths. She said that one of the possible key solutions is to put more effort into strengthening learners’ mathematical skills from as early as grade one.
Gauteng based Activator Sandile David Mlangeni agrees, stating “The Education department must further train teachers at foundation phase, if the foundation phase fails, the entire sector will fail.” As far as mathematics is concerned, Sandile states the method of teaching in the foundation phase to be an area of possible improvement.
Better Planning and Assessment
Another Activator, Kenneth Sethunya from Kutlwanong in the Free State, says “Mathematics should start to be fashionable in early grades. The department should put in work and use all the strategies they use in Grade 12, for learners to understand Mathematics, in early grades.
Teachers should be trained to teach Mathematics in methods that can be easily understood and they must from time to time be tested for their competence in this subject. There must be a strategic plan that will be implemented as to check how much a particular teacher knows about a subject because truly speaking, the lack of knowledge of the subject in the teachers is the one that makes learners to think the subject is not for them, especially learners in Intermediate and Senior Phases.
The gradual decrease of learners who do Mathematics is coming from Grade 9. It’s very problematic issue in Grade 9 to have learners who are struggling with the subject. So, a thorough regulation should take place from Grade 9 downwards.”
Certified at Nine
The Minister recently announced changes in the structure of our schooling system, introducing grade 9 as an exit point of the senior phase. Meaning that once a learner has completed grade 9, they will receive a General Education Certificate, a certificate that will allow them to choose a different pathway in the education system.
This is something that Krugersdorp based Activator Sipho Dlamini considers a step in the right direction, saying that the certificate will work as a form of reward to the learners, as well as motivation to keep pushing.
He says “Also, I think mathematics should be taught in more practical methods, so as to make it applicable in everyday life and situations. For instance, we were taught how to solve for x and how to do long maths sums, but it is hard to see how all of that relates to everyday life. The nature of our schooling system is becoming more and more obsolete and out-dated. If we are to fix the problems we have with mathematics, then our education system needs a whole makeover.”
The National Development Plan (Vision 2030) includes the following attributes as far as education is concerned:
• High quality early childhood education, with access rates that exceed 90%, and
• Quality school education with literacy and numeracy at globally competitive standards.
The Education Sector has got a decade to realize these and other related goals. It goes without saying that more work will need to be put in if the mandate in the NDP are to be fulfilled on time.
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