Poor matric maths competency persists

Matriculants search through newspapers for their names, 07 January 2014, at Bhukulani Secondary School in Soweto, after the release of the national matric results. Picture: Alaister Russell

As about 500 000 candidates are set to enter the matric Class of 2014 countrywide, public schools are expected to urgently apply subject content knowledge in teaching interventions to improve performance, particularly in mathematics.

This is after the 2013 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination National Diagnostic Report, in assessing last year’s performance, found that the majority of candidates, despite the improved pass rate in mathematics and mathematical literacy, lacked foundational competencies in mathematics and the majority continued to pass within the 30% range.

The report found that most matriculants’ algebraic skills were poor and they struggled with mathematics in Grades 11 and 12 because they cannot do the basic mathematics in the Grades eight, nine and 10 syllabuses.

According to the report, the literacy levels of many candidates was of concern as it was evident that many of the errors they made had their origins in a poor understanding of the basics and foundational competencies taught in the earlier grades.

In the report, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga acknowledged that although the Class of 2013 recorded the highest pass rate in six years since the implementation of the NSC at 78.2% in 2013, the quality of their passes in key subjects, such as mathematics, was still below desirable levels.

Motshekga said her department had already started shifting from an exclusively matric focus to paying attention also to lower grades through the Annual National Assessments in literacy and numeracy initiative in a bid to subsequently improve Grade 12 performance.

“I think we have learnt from our mistakes. There is greater curriculum stability. Schools, teachers and students know what to expect. Of course, there is still room for improvement, and we will ensure this in a gradual manner. We need to concentrate on improving teaching and learning using the curriculum we have,” she said, when asked if she believed that the NSC curriculum was a success.

“Every year a panel of experts from Umalusi provides independent quality control of the examinations. Moreover, education researchers tend to agree that the standards set in the examinations have remained constant.

“I have set up a ministerial committee including specialists to investigate the pass requirements of the NSC and they have received written inputs from various stakeholders and also conducted hearings. A report will be presented to me by the end of March 2014.”

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