An ed­u­cated guess

DOE can’t say how many Grade 11s are fail­ing

Finweek English Edition - - Economic trends & analysis - GARTH THE­UNIS­SEN

EACH YEAR SOUTH AFRICA’S ma­tric pass rate is used as a stick with which to beat the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (DOE). How­ever, crit­ics may find more po­tent am­mu­ni­tion in the form of Grade 11 pass rates.

Sta­tis­tics from the DOE show that each year there’s a mas­sive drop in the num­ber of learn­ers who progress from Grade 11 to Grade 12. In fact the av­er­age fall in the num­ber of Grade 11 learn­ers en­ter­ing Grade 12 be­tween 1999 and 2006 comes to 32,26%. Though this seems to in­di­cate that vast num­bers of learn­ers are sim­ply not pro­gress­ing to Grade 12, the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has no idea whether or not this is in­deed the case.

Wil­lie Ven­ter of the DOE’s Ed­u­ca­tion Man­age­ment In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems (EMIS) de­part­ment says the pass rate of Grade 11 learn­ers is sim­ply not avail­able at a na­tional level. “We only have data for Grade 12s and will only be­gin keep­ing records on Grade 11s from this year, once the new cur­ricu­lum is phased in.”

Louis Kriel of the DOE says that be­cause the prov­inces ad­min­is­ter Grades 10 and 11 ex­am­i­na­tions, the na­tional De­part­ment does not keep records of the pass rates for th­ese grades. How­ever, he does agree that the large dif­fer­ence in the num­ber of Grade 11s com­pared to Grade 12s seems to in­di­cate that many stu­dents are ei­ther be­ing held back or are drop­ping out al­to­gether.

“Be­cause the Grade 12 pass rates are used as a yard­stick to mea­sure a school’s per­for­mance, it’s prob­a­ble that head­mas­ters are hold­ing back border­line stu­dents so as not to spoil the fi­nal pass rate fig­ures,” he says.

An­other in­ter­est­ing trend is the dif­fer­ence in learner num­bers be­tween Grade 1 and Grade 2. A sim­i­lar drop-off in the num­ber of learn­ers en­ter­ing Grade 2 also ap­pears to in­di­cate that a fairly large per­cent­age of Grade 1 learn­ers are not cop­ing with the rigours of first year pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion.

Sta­tis­tics be­tween 1999 and 2006 show that on av­er­age 13,44% fewer learn­ers en­ter Grade 2 than those who start Grade 1.

Again it’s by no means cer­tain that this is due to learn­ers be­ing held back as the DOE can­not say what the Grade 1 fail­ure rate is.

Says Christo Lom­bard of the DOE’s Ex­am­i­na­tions Di­rec­torate: “There’s no di­rec­torate within the DOE that has that kind of in­for­ma­tion as it’s never needed.”

Lom­bard also told Fin­week that the DOE “only looks at school exit points”.

“We don’t keep pass rates by grade as schools don’t re­ally con­duct ex­am­i­na­tions at pri­mary school level any­more,” says Lom­bard.

“There are over 27 000 schools in the coun- try and there’s no mech­a­nism to as­sess pass rates by stan­dard on a na­tional ba­sis other than those for Grade 12.”

“Also, a school can only rec­om­mend to a par­ent that a stu­dent be held back but ul­ti­mately it’s up to the par­ents to de­cide whether or not they take that ad­vice.”

This is also symp­to­matic of the fact that there are no na­tion­ally de­ter­mined stan­dards at pri­mary school level to de­ter­mine whether or not a learner should pass or fail.

“At pri­mary school level, pro­gres­sion from one grade to an­other de­pends on the school,” says Cyn­thia Vakudze of the UCT Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment’s Schools De­vel­op­ment Unit.

Chil­dren are also not re­quired to write for­mal tests to as­sess their abil­ity.

“Tests are no longer used to as­sess learn­ers at pri­mary school level,” says Kaashief Has­san, an ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist at the UCT Schools De­vel­op­ment Unit. “Learn­ers are as­sessed through ob­ser­va­tion rather than for­mal test­ing and it’s more skills-based than knowl­edge based. In other words learn­ers have to demon­strate that they can ap­ply what they have learnt prac­ti­cally rather than show that they can re­tain knowl­edge.”

This form of as­sess­ment forms part of the con­tro­ver­sial out­comes based ed­u­ca­tion model adopted by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Far more dis­turb­ing though is that Has­san says the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of stan­dards set by the new cur­ricu­lum dif­fers rad­i­cally from school to school.

“The cur­ricu­lum uses var­i­ous as­sess­ment bench­marks to as­sess learner ca­pa­bil­ity but schools in­ter­pret th­ese bench­marks quite dif­fer­ently,” says Has­san. “For ex­am­ple, some schools re­gard th­ese bench­marks as the min­i­mum re­quire­ments to as­sess a learner while other schools, par­tic­u­larly those in dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas, will strive only to ful­fil th­ese stan­dards. They sel­dom strive to at­tain any­thing above and be­yond those lev­els.”

DIF­FER­ENCE IN NUM­BERS BE­TWEEN GRADE 1 & GRADE 2 LEARN­ERS

Source: Dept of Ed­u­ca­tion

DIF­FER­ENCE IN NUM­BERS BE­TWEEN GRADE 11 & GRADE 12 LEARN­ERS

Source: Dept of Ed­u­ca­tion

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