Teachers’ unions greeted the announcement that pupils with 20% in mathematics would allowed to pass with varying degrees of disapproval.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union described the move as “scandalous” and National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa called for an investigation into why children are failing maths – what is the “underlying problem”.
The reactions came after the basic education department instructed public schools to move on to the next grade all Grade 7 to 9 pupils who obtained 20% in mathematics.
The adjustment was made after teachers indicated that pupils seemed to be passing every subject except for maths, which is compulsory to pass and be promoted to the next grade.
Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Brian Schreuder said that the main reason for the decision was that because pupils were failing mathematics they could not progress to a FET college or Grade 10.
With this new requirement, those who achieved a 20% pass in mathematics would progress to the next grade. This way, pupils who excelled in other areas were not prevented from advancing to the next grade simply because they failed mathematics.
The pass mark was previously 40% and allowed the pupil to progress provided they passed all other subjects, including two languages.
In a circular released to districts and schools on December 1, the department stated it became aware that “the current set of promotion requirements as set out in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps) may impact negatively on a high number of learners in the [Grade 7 to 9] phase.
“In light of [this] … a special condonation dispensation has been approved to accommodate learners whose promotion to the next grade level may be adversely affected by the compulsory requirement of passing mathematics at level 3 (40%),” the circular stated.
Schreuder said that although pupils could continue on to an FET college or Grade 10, they should not be permitted to take mathematics if they achieved between 20% to 29% and must take mathematics literacy.
Schreuder indicated that the Western Cape Department didn’t necessarily approve of the 20% drop because it was too low. He said they planned to engage with the basic education department on the matter in 2017.