CEO of ORT SA, Ariellah Rosenberg writes:
The Department of Education’s recent circular, allowing schools to promote Grades 7-9 pupils with math scores of only 20% and abandoning the 40% required pass rate without providing any remedial programme or specialised teachers’ training is jeopardising these children for life! It also endangers the average and above-average student who will be compromised by poorer teaching of maths due to less coverage of curricula, lower expectations and incompetent delivery. The reality is that teachers will have to cope with more diverse groups of competency in maths without having the skills or the knowledge to manage these discrepancies.
Mathematics may be considered a compulsory subject for certain professions and businesses but Math is not only a subject that is required for engineers, mathematicians and medical doctors, but for working out a recipe, figuring out which is the best deal without being taken for a ride, getting a loan, painting your house, shopping, starting a business and having the freedom to a broad career path. How, with a proficiency of 20% in maths, can one accomplish any of these proficiently?
Mathematics provides logic and critical thinking skills and most importantly, problem solving skills that are required for life. Government should aim at ensuring that children have a good grounding in mathematics as it will equip them for their future. With 20% maths proficiency, we are setting these children up for failure and in reality, promoting the legacy of apartheid education by expanding the gap of opportunities and pushing away equal education!
All key stakeholders must come together to help solve this pressing issue. Government, teachers unions, teachers, parents, children, academic institutions, NGO’s and the corporate world must all work coherently to find a solution. Options to resolving this issue should include remedial math programmes for poor performers and suitable teacher training.
For South Africa to become economically competitive, mathematics is crucial for economic development and for technological progress. Unless mathematics education is improved, the country will remain behind in terms of education, innovation, achievement and economic growth.
ORT SA Maths Programmes have been implemented successfully in hundreds of previously disadvantaged schools, showing significant improvement of learners’ performance and teachers’ pedagogical knowledge. ORT SA Maths adopts international best-practices and models.