4 July 2011
President Jacob Zuma has called on all South Africans to work together in support of basic education, following the release of the 2011 annual national assessments of the numeracy and literacy skills of the country’s schoolchildren.
Zuma said the assessments, released last week, confirmed “the correctness of the government decision to make education an apex priority and a societal responsibility nationwide.”
He called on the nation to hold up the banner of literacy and numeracy and work together to ensure that all citizens acquired these critical foundational skills.
The assessment, which took place in February, saw numeracy and literacy tests conducted among six-million foundation phase (grades 1 to 3) and intermediate phase (grades 4 to 6) pupils attending government schools.
The results showed that, nationally, grade 3 learners performed at an average of 35 percent in literacy and 28 percent in numeracy, while the provincial performance stood between 19 percent and 43 percent, with the highest being the Western Cape.
In grade 6, the national average performance in languages was 28 percent, while mathematics performance was 30 percent. The provincial percent in the two areas ranged between 20 percent and 41 percent, with the highest being the Western Cape and lowest being Mpumalanga.
‘We must learn from this’
While acknowledging that the results were disappointing, Zuma noted that they informed the nation of pupils’ performance, and demonstrate that where literacy and numeracy programmes were implemented effectively and in a focused manner, like in Gauteng and Western Cape, performance was enhanced.
He added that the significant intervention of testing nearly six-million learners was one of the government’s many strategies for ensuring that improved quality learning and teaching was achieved.
The purpose of the assessments was “in the first instance to provide government with a tool to measure on an annual basis the performance of the entire sector – from the individual learner, class, school, district, and province to the country as a whole,” Zuma said. “This will enable government to accurately measure on an annual basis the impact of specific programmes and interventions.”
The assessments also enabled the government to identify points in the system where intervention was needed, Zuma said
In a bid to strengthen learning and teaching, the government has already put in place programmes, including the distribution of workbooks to nearly six-million children in 2011.
The government has also introduced practical reforms such as streamlining curriculum documents for teachers, as well as taking steps to improve the language skills of learners by introducing the language of learning and teaching in grade 1 and reducing the number of subjects in the intermediate phase.
The government has also finalised the Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development for South Africa. The focus is firmly on more targeted, subject-specific teacher education and development to improve teacher content knowledge.