I am not convinced that all the children in the country should know maths and science to become valuable assets to society.
I am tempted to believe that the efforts made in education are founded in a genuine desire to improve the lives of all South Africans. I am also comfortable in accepting the notion that improving the maths and science ability of our children could play a considerable role in changing the lives of the marginalised.
That despite, I am not convinced that all the children in the country should know maths and science to become valuable assets to society.
Is it possible that we might not be placing enough emphasis on the importance of language in learning?
AND …is it possible that we might be so focused on science content that we are not really considering the cultivation of scientific habits of mind?
Education is the key to success. I was told this when I did grade 8 (Standard 6) in 1968. In fact, my parents were so convinced that they sent me to a school, which at the time was considered to be one of the best in the Eastern Cape. This school was almost 300 kilometres away from home, but it was a worthwhile exercise because I was ‘destined’ to become the first medical doctor in our family.
When I finally ended up a school teacher in 1976, I told my learners that education was the key to success. It is now 2015 and about to retire soon and I still hear people saying that education is the key to success.
What is this education that we are talking about? AND what is this success that it unlocks?
Is the general understanding of this implied “education” the content of the syllabi in schools? Does this suggest that if a child has knowledge of the content of the various subjects offered at school, he or she will achieve success or become successful?
I have been walking this education road to success for years and have become tired of walking. Thousands of compatriots have been walking this road to success with me, some crawling, but unfortunately success remains elusive to millions.
Is it possible that we are starting to walk too soon? Is it possible that we are not preparing our children for a journey, but in fact starting to pack their luggage or baggage at primary school level?
Is there a snowball’s chance in hell that people in charge of education would consider shifting the emphasis from content to enablement in the primary school? I seriously question our approach in public schools especially up to grade 6.
I wonder what difference it would make if children from grade R to 6 could be taught to read and write competently through being exposed to exercises that would develop scientific habits of mind. What would happen if we taught learners how to write discursive and argumentative essays to enable them to articulate sound reasoning?
We could use some of the content found in the textbooks for the various learning areas but move away from assessing for content. We should place a higher premium on the ability to express oneself in language and the relationship between human behaviour, society and environment. Attempts should be made to develop understanding through experience rather than simply testing memory retention.
If we could consciously aspire to develop a body of learners who enter the senior phase of school as critical thinkers who could adequately express themselves in writing, and ability to access information through competent reading, we will perhaps achieve the success anticipated in “education”. Maybe, what we need is not a key to success, but rather a key to education.
Is it possible that some children have inadvertently been programmed to fail in an academic environment as early as the first day they set foot in school? It is with growing concern that one is faced with a scenario where too many learners are not able to read or express their thoughts coherently in writing by the time they reach grade 8. Should one consider the great political value attached to the idea of delivering textbooks on time, one wonders about the less publicised inability of children being able to access the profound literary treasures locked between the covers of these books.
Despite varied pedagogic approaches and commendable efforts of mediating learning through practical experience, the main determiner of scholastic progress in our schools is measured through text. The fact that children are both taught and assessed in language suggests that those with reading deficiency as well as inability to express their understanding in writing find it difficult to keep up with their more able peers.
I am extremely tempted to argue that the deliberate choice made by parents when the child starts school in respect of language and teaching could signal potential disaster in later life.
Is it worth ruminating the role and importance of taking into consideration indigenous ways of knowing and practices in the teaching and learning of Science in the classroom?
Recent emphases on the promotion of Maths, Science and Technology in schools as well as concerns raised in respect of the poor performance of previously disadvantaged matric learners in both Science and Mathematics suggests an assumption that the South African education system is not meeting its outcomes anticipated in the said learning areas. It further suggests that Mathematics and Science are considered important enough to merit special attention and for that matter all possible reasons for the evident discrepancy between the results of the different hues that constitute our rainbow nation need to be investigated. In our frantic search for a panacea we most certainly cannot discount a possible role for Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS). Quite a substantial body of research is unanimous in finding that IKS should be integrated in the teaching of Science for a number of reasons.
After every school term parents are notified that their children are either Ready to Proceed (RP) or Not ready to proceed (NRP). In most cases the school report would point out in which areas the learners need to improve and some teachers would even go to the extent of writing a little comment. Many parents understand RP and NRP to mean that their children either passed or failed the examination that was written. The truth however is not so cut and dried. Ready to proceed means exactly what it suggests. The learner is ready to proceed. NOT READY TO PROCEED implies the exact opposite. The learner is not ready to proceed. This immediately begs the question, “Proceed where?” or “Not ready to proceed where?”
One possible response to this question is the following: “At the end of the year it means that your child is either ready or not ready to proceed to the next grade.” You would then want to know what it means during the course of the year. Say for example after the mid-year or September exam. The “informed” response here is as follows: “It means that if your child performs at the level he or she is performing in this exam, he/she either will or will not proceed to the next grade at the end of the year.”
The concept of being ready or not ready to proceed, however, has serious implications. The result, NOT READY TO PROCEED implies exactly what it suggests. If this comment is written on a mid-year report, it means that the learner did not master the work up to that point in time. This should in most scenarios suggest that more needs to be done with the same learning skill or content to enable the learner to reach a stage where he or she is ready to proceed to the next level. UNFORTUNATELY this does not happen in most public schools!
Teachers are left with little choice. Instead of assisting learners to master the work they have not yet mastered, they have to proceed with the work of the following term or year.
The school syllabus is prescribed and the work needs to be covered in tight time-frames.
“’Different minds learn differently’, writes Dr. Mel Levine, one of the best-known education experts and pediatricians in America today. And that’s a problem for many children, because most schools still cling to a one-size-fits-all education philosophy.” https://books.google.co.za/books/about/A_Mind_at_a_Time.html?id=c0Fj1mNCIHAC&redir_esc=y
Last year, November 2015, a document entitled, “GUIDELINE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF PROMOTION AND PROGRESSION REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADES 10 -12” was issued by the Department of Education, South Africa.
Its purpose was to “ensure the consistent and uniform application by all Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) of the Regulations pertaining to the National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12, promulgated as Notice No. R1114, in Regulation Gazette No. 9886 of 28 December 2012, which states that a learner may only be retained once in the Further Education and Training Phase in order to prevent the learner from being retained in this phase for longer than four years.”
This idea was met with disapproval by many teachers and some argued that a lot of undeserving learners will reach grade 12 and seriously compromise the DOE’s wish to improve the matric pass rate of public schools in the townships.
Despite what could be considered legitimate fears, one has to closely study the spirit and intention of this move. I am not going to voice my opinion in this regard, but rather quote chunks of this document in an attempt to share some of the content and implications in a simple form.
“The basic principle relating to this policy statement is that a learner should not spend more than four years in the phase. However, at the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) meeting held on 14 August 2015, the following criteria were adopted as pre-requisites to allowing a learner to be progressed from either Grade 10 to Grade 11, or from Grade 11 to Grade 12. These criteria are as follows:
- the learner must have failed to satisfy the promotion requirements of either Grade 10 or
Grade 11, and repeated either Grade 10 or Grade 11;
- the learner must have passed the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT) and another
three of the seven subjects offered;
- the learner must have attended school on a regular basis. Absenteeism in excess of 20 days, without a valid reason, will disqualify the learner from being progressed
- the learner must have complied with the prescribed School Based Assessment (SBA) requirements for that academic year.
The learner must satisfy all of the above criteria to be progressed to the next grade. (Emphasis mine)
I consider the following paragraph crucial in the interpretation of this document:
“However, it needs to be noted that progression in Grades 10-12 does not guarantee the final certification of a learner in Grade 12. Such a learner must comply with the certification requirements as contemplated in paragraph 37(1)(a) of the policy document, National policy pertaining to the programme and promotion requirements of the National Curriculum Statement Grades R- 12 to enable him or her to obtain a National Senior Certificate. This implies that the learner will be allowed multiple opportunities in the writing of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination, in order to ensure that he/she satisfies the requirements of the NSC, which is conditional to the shelf life of the school-based assessment.”
In conclusion I wish to point out that legislation does allow for progression through the intervention of a parent or guardian and that an elaborate consultative process fully details the procedures to follow, however I wish to quote the criterion listed as (d) above in more detail:
“Compliance with the School Based Assessment (SBA) Requirements
Compliance with the SBA requirements will ensure that the learner has satisfied the assessment requirements of each of the subjects, and this will confirm the learner’s commitment to the subject. Despite the fact that the learner is required to pass only four of the seven subjects, he must satisfy the SBA requirements for all subjects, including the subjects he has failed. (Emphasis mine)
A thorough comprehension and execution of the stipulations in this document http://www.ecexams.co.za/2015_Assessment_Instructions/AssIn_48_2015_Promotion-GR10-11.pdf might prove advantageous to schools in general and should be read in conjunction with the National policy pertaining to the programme and promotion requirements of the National Curriculum Statement Grades R —12, the National Protocol for Assessment Grades R — 12 and the Regulations pertaining to the National Curriculum Statement Grade R— 12, Notice No R 1114 in Regulation Gazette No.9886 of 28 December 2012.
In my previous memo I commented on a document entitled, “GUIDELINE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF PROMOTION AND PROGRESSION REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADES 10 -12” that was issued by the Department of Education, South Africa in November 2015. http://www.ecexams.co.za/2015_Assessment_Instructions/AssIn_48_2015_Promotion-GR10-11.pdf
I noted that its purpose was to “ensure the consistent and uniform application by all Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) of the Regulations pertaining to the National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12, promulgated as Notice No. R1114, in Regulation Gazette No. 9886 of 28 December 2012, which states that a learner may only be retained once in the Further Education and Training Phase in order to prevent the learner from being retained in this phase for longer than four years.”
On 16 August 2016 circular E22 of 2016 was signed off to further clarify the criteria which would assist the learner to cope with the demands of the next grade. Document can accessed at: http://www.education.gov.za/Portals/0/Documents/Publications/Circular%20E22%20of%202016.pdf?ver=2016-08-29-131130-683
To avoid any misrepresentation, I am quoting relevant sections from this document verbatim.
“(b) the learner must have passed the Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT) and any other three of the seven subjects offered (Life Orientation included). If the Home Language is the LOLT, then only for the purpose of this criteria, a 30% mark will be accepted;
(c) the learner must have attended school on a regular basis. Absenteeism in excess of 20 days, without a valid reason, will disqualify the learner from being progressed; and
(d) the learner must have complied with the prescribed School Based Assessment (SBA) requirements for that academic year.
In addition, the Minister approved for progressed learners to be allowed to choose the Multiple Examination Opportunity option in the writing of the National Senior Certificate examinations. This implies that progressed learners after the preparatory examination, and based on their performance in the preparatory examination, may choose to write all six subjects or less than the six subject package, in the November 2016 examination. The remaining subjects will be written in the June examination in 2017.”
My social conscience appreciates the premise for this bold move and if those schools that could benefit from this venture treats it with appropriate understanding, chances are that our teaching environments might become more conducive to learning in the near future.
March 2017…the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) was introduced in 2012 and the question is, are we winning or whining?
In 2011 I expressed a concern that the introduction of the CAPS, despite being considered an attempt to improve the quality of education in the country, might have quite the opposite effect if not approached with circumspection. My assumption at the time was based on the possibility that teachers might revert to teaching methods where covering aspects contained in the syllabus becomes more important than learners’ understanding because of set time-frames.
I cited the investment of millions in creating awareness around social constructivism as a preferred teaching and learning methodology and cautioned that after all the years of actively promoting social constructivist methodologies, the implementation of the CAPS could seriously negate reasonable strides made in this regard.
I stated the obvious regarding the engagement of learners in practical activities being an excellent method of mediating learning and the need for adequate time for learners to actually engage in group practical work in a meaningful manner. I alluded to the notion of learners needing time to think critically, time to engage in meaningful talk and time to reflect on their learning. I was particularly concerned about the learners at my school whose LOLT is English, whereas their mother-tongue is either Afrikaans or isi-Xhosa.
I was concerned about the possibility of rushing to complete the syllabus in a prescribed time-frame and the possible loss of meaningful engagement with subject matter. McTighe and O’Connor (2005:12) warned of the “danger of viewing … standards and benchmarks as inert content to cover” and suggested that “educators should frame the standards and benchmarks in terms of desired performances and ensure that the performances are as authentic as possible”.
I was concerned that teachers might become content-driven and mentioned the probability that common assessment would encourage teachers to spend more time on teaching than facilitating learning.
This lead me to toy with the idea of differentiating between Linear-teaching and Why-teaching. My argument simply being that to facilitate in-depth learning, one needs to spend more time on learner-understanding than dashing along the surface to meet a DEAD—LINE.
So, where are we now, looking back and then looking at what lies ahead?
What do you think?
McTighe, J., & O’Conner, K. (2005). Seven Practices for effective learning. Educational
leadership, 63(3), 10-17