There is no competence in gaining 20% to pass maths.
By Sibongile Chiumie
Mathematics has been taught for many years now and has been made a compulsory subject for all South African pupils. It is best known for its good benefits that one can be able to be creative when it comes to decision-making and using logic in daily life. Before pupils were expected to get above 40% to be promoted to the next grade, however early last week it was reported that the Department of Basic Education changed that 40% requirement to 20% for all Grade 7-9 pupils. The head of the Western Cape Education Department, Brian Schreuder, said that many pupils were passing all of their other subjects but failing mathematics, so if a pupil has obtained 20% or more in Mathematics, they should be condoned.
This is quite understandable for pupils who struggle in maths, however the bigger risk is that pupils will get away with not knowing 80% of the work. The implication of this is that pupils will be more relaxed and not work hard on their maths as they now only need 20% to pass. This is a huge adjustment.
According to the national assessment circular that was released on December 1, in the case of Grade 9 pupils who have managed to get between 20-29% in maths, they will be promoted but will be enrolled into maths literacy. If this is the case, then it seems like we will have more pupils doing mathematics literacy than our pure mathematics. This affects the number of pupils who will study at universities and affects their career choices.
It will also be harder for those pupils who are being condoned to learn to do well in mathematics or even mathematics literacy when they reach Grade 10. This is not solving the problem of why many pupils are failing their grade but instead it’s just pushing them into a dead end. This new requirement is too little - there is no competence in passing with gaining 20%. Lowering the standard doesn’t make pupils smarter and making it higher doesn’t make them stupid either. It’s clear that not everyone will do well in maths, so it’s the job of the pupils, the teachers and the government to find a solution on how to encourage all pupils to work hard in their maths for a better future.
South Africa is already performing poorly when it comes to mathematics. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2016 report for instance rated South Africa 38 out of 39 countries when it comes to mathematics performance. The government should find ways of motivating students to do better in mathss because it’s of no help lowering the pass rate.
The government should open more free study groups for pupils to join in different areas, provide extra-curricular activities for maths and provide tutors who are enthusiastic about teaching maths so that pupils can enjoy it.
As for younger children, mathematics should be made present in their lives and they should be taught the importance of it from an early age so that they can be able to grow the passion for it. That way, they will be prepared to do better in high school as they already know to work hard in order to get good marks.
As the youth, we need to realise that we are the future of this country so instead of the Department of Basic Education making things too easy for us, we should challenge the government to support us in being the best that we can be.
*Chiumie is a 16-year-old pupil at Barnato Park High School in Berea, Johannesburg. She wrote this piece as part of Media Monitoring Africa’s Children’s News Agency.