Tag Archives: teacher training

SA school pupils out-perform their teachers in basic mathematics

Economic researcher Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch
Economic researcher Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch


As matric students commence their final exams, a new research study by Nicholas Spaull from the University of Stellenbosch, indicates that Grade 6 pupils are out-performing their teachers in basic mathematics.

The vast majority of matric students accomplish a mark of between 40% – 49% in mathematics and in 2008 the average mark for maths was 45%. If we consider the outcomes of Spaull’s recent study as an indication of the state of the South African education system and teacher skills, we not only have a crisis in the country but instead a national disaster of epic proportions.

How can we expect the local South African economy to grow and create more jobs for the unemployed or create a breeding ground for entrepreneurs to start businesses, if school pupils are barely competent to solve basic mathematics problem while their teachers, who are meant to guide these learners, are not capable of teaching their pupils.

The research study centered on Grade 6 teachers from disadvantaged schools throughout the country. The results of the study revealed that teachers are not capable of solving basic mathematics problems presented to them. Conclusions may also be inferred that primary school teachers are in all probability no better.

Probably the most disconcerting outcome of the study showed that the top performing Grade 6 pupils easily out-performed some Grade 6 teachers. The very best Grade 6 pupils (5%) had the ability to achieve higher marks on the same mathematics tests that the bottom 20% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers wrote. If this does not result in any red flags and/or warning signs regarding the state of South Africa’s education system, then what is going to jolt our leaders and government to wake up and admit that the country’s education system is in a shambles and crisis.

The study undertaken by Spaull was compiled by conducting a desktop study of the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality 111 report (Sacmeq) which had been performed in 2007. As part of this study, Grade 6 pupils and teachers from South Africa and 12 other African countries were required to write precisely the same mathematics tests. Even though questions were not identical, the difficulty level was the same for all those tested.

Spaull’s is quoted as saying that, “There is a case to be made that teachers who lack an elementary understanding of the subjects they teach can actually do harm to their pupils.”

When will the South African government as well as those given the responsibly of educating and training our youth accept the reality that when teachers do not possess the ability and skills to understand the content that they are teaching then there is a problem, and that the problem ought to be dealt with immediately.

“Teachers who lack a sufficient conceptual understanding of their subject are more likely to employ inappropriate concrete techniques when teaching and use methods that undermine the long-term learning trajectories of pupils,”said Spaull.

The results of the study highlighted the following facts:

  •  No more than 32% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers in South Africa hold the required skills and knowledge of mathematics content knowledge. The average for 14 African countries is 42%
  •  South African teachers were only capable of answering 46% of the questions correctly presented to them
  •  60% of the Grade 6 mathematics teachers from the poorest South African schools have statistically considerably less mathematics content knowledge compared to the average Grade 6 teachers in Swaziland, Tanzania and Uganda.

Spaull concluded from his research and recommended that government reintroduce the controversial teacher competency test which was emphatically apposed by the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu).

As increasing numbers of studies are performed and research undertaken in the country, there is growing factual evidence and data highlighting the undeniable fact that a large proportion of teachers in the country lack the basic required content knowledge in the subject that they teach. This is because of the inadequate teacher training and ineffectiveness of in-service teacher training initiatives.

“In light of this, and following the premise that teachers cannot teach what they do not know, it is a logical imperative that a system of identifying which teachers need what help is urgently required, ” said Spaull.

Sadtu is totally against any competency testing of teachers and that teachers testing is not an option. Mugwena Maluleke, Sadtu general secretary, has stated that the union is totally against any teacher competency tests and that the union does not want them. They would prefer that teachers be provided with further training to further improve their skills and competency.

Well, if this is the case, how can you expect to offer further training and skills development programs to teachers when you have no knowledge or information of the skills that these teachers are lacking. Maluleke does concede to fact that some teachers do not have the ability to do maths however, not because they are stupid, rather for the reason that there are no specialized teachers. “We take people who did history or geography and ask them to teach maths. What do you expect?”

Maluleke has highly recommended that the government and the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga should make it a top priority to open teacher training colleges to provide teachers the necessary training opportunities to specialize in certain subjects and attain the basic skills necessary to teach those subject. Motshekga has stated publicly that her department is aware of the issue and this has resulted in the introduction of the Annual National Assessments.

The question that Motshekga really should answer, is how many assessments do we need to undertake before the government realizes the crisis in the South African education system, and additionally assume responsibility for the problems within the education system. Everyone might point a finger at Motshekga considering that she hold the position of Basic Education Minister, but the current failure of our education system is the responsibility of the entire South African government.

Like many others in the country, I do not believe that there will be any changes in the near future until such time that individuals are held accountable for their actions and that government and leaders assume responsibility for the crisis in the education system. The only people who will and are suffering, through no fault of their own, are our school pupils whose future success looks bleak.

Source: citypress, fundza.co.za (image)


Teaching bursary to promote maths and science



The recruitment and training of teachers in the vital subjects of maths and science is set to receive a significant boost as a result of a venture established by the Department of Basic Education in a joint venture with the Independent Schools Association of South Africa (ISASA) and Investec.

By way of this collaboration, the department has created and adopted the “Teacher Assist Approach” programme, which it will implement when recruiting and placing new teachers in vital  subjects that include Mathematics, Science and English.

The department, ISASA and Investec unveiled this historic public-private partnership with the aim of training 200 teacher interns in the priority subjects. The teachers are going to be trained at independent schools bertween 2013 and 2020.

The programme will employ the combined resources to develop quality teachers in Maths, Science and English. The department will provide for the total study and subsistence costs of the teachers for the period of their training via the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme.

ISASA schools will host, train and mentor the interns. The group will in addition manage the programme which will involve recruiting, selecting and placing prospective teachers, as well as supporting them throughout the period of their internship, which will take between 3 and 4 years.

Investec is expanding it’s support at school level and is extending its focus to the vital need to develop high quality teachers in the key subjects of maths and science. Its function will in addition see them make available capital for enrichment activities for instance the orientation of the new recruits, academic support along with hosting of mentoring meetings.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga mentioned, in line with the education strategy – Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025, the department was in fact making an effort to boost the supply of young and qualified educators, especially for gateway subjects.



Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga


“The Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme is one way of [achieving this], hence our support for this initiative. This will help us in placing the just over 2 000 new graduates Funza Lushaka has produced over the last three years and in tackling current teacher shortages,” Motshekga said.

The day-to-day support of the recruits is going to be made available from the ISASA, which includes the ongoing evaluation of the recruits, to make certain that individuals who need additional support are actually identified and assisted appropriately. ISASA will be managing every aspect of the teachers’ development, utilizing the help and support of the department and Investec. It is anticipated that the training model could be the catalyst towards grooming the next generation of teachers.

The primary objectives and goals of the programme is to develop confident, competent teachers, along with a robust dedication to Maths and Science teaching as their lifelong profession. Undoubtedly, the multiplier effect associated with skillful teachers within these priority subjects is truly a major contribution to the teaching profession.

Suitable applicants are school-leavers with university entrance passes in addition to superior results in Maths, Science or English. Individuals with university credits or degrees in these subjects will also be among those benefiting from hte bursaries to study towards a teaching degree.

Investec representative Setlogane Manchidi encouraged interns to carry out some research, stating that ” he who doesn’t research, has nothing to teach. “Whatever you teach our children and allow them to discover about themselves will be the foundation upon their future,” Manchidi told the interns.

Transnet Foundation Senior Manager: Education, Theresa Vivian Moila acknowledged the reality that the teaching profession was in fact undervalued, however, it is not all “doom and gloom” and challenged the interns to revive and restore the excellence within the teaching profession.

“Be at the frontline to give learners requisition knowledge. You have to open doors of opportunities for learners and restore the love of learning. Become the village that raises children. Go out and conquer the world and touch the lives of learners and communities in a positive way,” said Moila.

Nomthandazo Dube from Tembisa, who feels that she was born a teacher, signed up with the programme  to acquire practical experience. “I want to find my feet first before going out to teach. My goal is to further my studies and do Education Psychology because it gives you the tools you need as an educator to understand the learner behaviour and how to respond in different situations.

Applicants for 2014, especially graduates wishing to access bursaries, can get application forms by contacting ISASA on 011 648 1331.

Source: SAnews.gov.za


South Africa is undoubtedly moving forward in education

Government has welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s request to serve on UN Secretary -General Ban Ki-Moon’s Education First Initiative which is geared towards advancing the achievement of quality, relevant and inclusive education for everyone across the world.

UN Secretary-General invited Zuma, who will one of ten inaugural Member State Champions for the Education First Initiative. The inaugural states are going to have the duty to give help and support to the UN Secretary-General to guarantee formidable visibility along with the success of the project.

The request to join the Education First Initiative is a clear indication to the reputation of South Africa as a country that is making an effort to undo the influence of centuries of colonialism and apartheid in education as well as other spheres according to Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj. The influence and impact of colonialism on education continues to be an extremely sensitive topic.


Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj

Numerous groups along with the Democratic Alliance have raised their objection to inclusion of South Africa given the recent failures of the Education Department whilst making claims that South Africa has not yet accomplished a great deal in education. This has also been backed up by universities stating that high students entering their institution are not prepared for post high school education.

Maharaj has defended his claims stating that these opinions are incorrect and malicious emphasizing that South Africa could count numerous successes in the last 18 years in reversing the consequence of a racist education system which had been created to suppress the majority. In many respects this statement is true but the we should not forget or discount the reality that after 18 years along with court orders, the education department still cannot deliver books to school children or take responsibility for this.

Among the list of accomplishments has been the splitting up of Basic and Higher Education in 2009 by the President to ensure that each could receive complete attention.

At the Basic Education level, government was forced to contend with the influence of poverty on learner overall performance along with aspects which include weak school management, teacher expertise and know-how, low levels of accountability in addition to limited resources all of which have impacted on the way schools performed.

As stated by Maharaj the government has systematically put into practice programs to deal with all of these flaws and improvement is being made. Most of all the government hopes to achieve the goal of universal access to education.


On top of that, more than eight million children are currently in no-fee schools not to mention the fact that government in addition has been successful in facilitating universal access to primary education. The percentage of girls enrolled in primary, secondary and tertiary education is without a doubt improving substantially. At the same time, the government’s school nutrition programme is currently feeding in excess of eight million children in more than 20 000 schools which has had a beneficial influence on overall performance of students.

Government is furthermore on course to fulfill its goal of having 100% coverage for Grade R by 2014. Grade R enrolment has grown from 300 000 to over 700 000 between 2003 and 2011. The government continues work tirelessly at eliminating mud schools with an injection of 8.2 billion rand been allocated to the programme. Over the next few months the government is expecting to open new schools in the Eastern Cape region replacing the old mud schools. The success rate of matric students has also improved from 67.8% in 2010 and 70.2% in 2011.

Maharaj also stated that government continuously work relentlessly to further improve the quality of teaching maths and science in addition to the teaching of literacy and numeracy. The education department also aims to improve the current university pass rate and providing graduates a greater chance of employment.

In order to improve literacy and numeracy in primary schools, the department of education has implemented Annual National Assessment (ANA) tests make it possible for to objectively appraise the health and well-being of the education system below Grade 12.


“The 2011 ANA results confirmed our belief that the levels of literacy and numeracy are very low, Grade 3 learner average scores are 28% and 35% for numeracy and literacy respectively. We want schools to use the results to produce school development plans so that we can systematically improve education outcomes. The target is to have 60% of Grade 3 learners performing at required literacy levels, at least 60% of Grade 9 learners performing at required mathematics levels, and 175 000 Grade 12 learners pass with a bachelor’s pass by 2014,” said Maharaj.

On the subject of school management, government has established objectives of producing in excess of 40 000 teachers by 2014. Additionally, when it comes to institutions providing Foundation Phase teacher education, the government hopes to increase the number from 13 to 21 within the upcoming four years. A few of these are going to be revitalized former colleges of education.

Regarding textbooks and learning materials, government has directed the Department of Basic Education to enhance the distribution logistics to ensure that books get to schools on time next year in order to avoid the issues that arose in Limpopo and other provinces this year. Even though the government is looking forward, no action has been taken for the text book blunder even after court decisions. One would have to question the true intent and responsibility of government. Many people have expressed the opinion that if this scenario were to happen in the private sector, those responsible would be seeking new employment. President Zuma is currently  processing the Presidential Task Team report on the Limpopo saga and will make a statement as soon as he has completed the process.

“A lot of progress is being made in improving higher education access and outcomes. To reduce finance as a barrier to accessing post school training, allocations for loans and bursaries increased from R3.3 billion in 2010/11 to R5.5 billion in 2011/12, with R17 million focusing on learners with disability.”


Lets hope, for the future of the country,  that these decisions will not be politically based given the fact that the future of the country depends the children and the education they receive.


To express your views and opinion you can call the President Hotline toll-free on 17737 or email president@po.gov.za

Source: SAnews.gov.za


SA focus on education, learning, and teaching is paying off

South Africa’s drive for universal the means to access education, as well as for improved learning and teaching, are beginning to pay off according to President Jacob Zuma.

Presenting his fourth State of the Nation address, Zuma mentioned that more than eight-million students happen to be enrolled in no-fee schools and benefiting from the government’s school feeding scheme, together with school attendance now in close proximity to 100 percent for the compulsory band of 7-15 years of age.

“A significant victory is the doubling of grade R enrollment, from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 in 2011,” Zuma pointed out. “We seem to be positioned to fulfill our target of 100 percent coverage for grade R by 2014.”

Having said that, he pointed out the fact that the government continued to be worried by the report of the General Household Survey in 2010 that just over 120 000 children in the 7-15 year old band were out of school.

‘In school, in class, on time’

At the same time, Zuma congratulated the teachers, learners, parents along with the communities for the hard work, which in turn saw a rise in last year’s matric pass rate, adding the fact that the government’s rigorous focus on education appeared to be bearing fruit.

“We will continue to invest in training of more teachers who can instruct in mathematics, science and African languages. Our call to teachers to be in school, in class, on time, teaching for a minimum of seven hours a day continues to be crucial to success … we thank the teacher unions for supporting this campaign.”

Higher education targets

On the subject of higher education, Zuma pointed out that the government was outperforming its targets, with approximately 14 000 school leavers being placed in workplace learning opportunities during the last year, as well as over 11 000 artisans having carried out their trade tests.

He appeared to be thrilled to see a rise in the number of learners enrolled in Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, and encouraged parents to motivate their children to enrol in these colleges, given that the country required the skills these colleges happen to be offering.

To expand the means to access tertiary education, Zuma announced that R200-million had been invested in assisting 25 000 students to repay their debts to institutions of higher learning this past year.

He additionally revealed that a total of R300-million ended up being assigned for preparatory work towards constructing new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.

Source: BuaNews


Strategy to deal with low literacy and numeracy rates

The Council of Education has approved an Integrated National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy as part of the Basic Education Department’s reaction to the need for urgency in dealing with the low achievement levels of learners in literacy and numeracy.

“The low overall performance levels of our learners were validated by way of the Annual National Assessment (ANA), together with the regional and international benchmark assessments. The council emphasised the fact that the strategy is to address the inadequate performance in literacy and numeracy must be a national one that combines all the provincial initiatives in this area,” the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said.

She spelled out how the approach will focus on classrooms and teachers as key levers for change in learner performance. It’s going to be guided by the department’s 2012 goal of consolidating the work around the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), ANAs and the workbooks.



Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga


“Provinces, districts and school communities have to focus all their energies on making improvements to reading, comprehension, writing and counting,” Motshekga, who had earlier met with the Council of Education.

The purchasing of school workbooks, where a number of schools purchased a set of three different literacy books and language use, were on the list of teething problems recognized by the department during the 2011 ANAs, and Motshekga explained that all provinces have committed to the further institutionalization of ANA in 2012.

She pointed out that the ANAs has made it easier for the department to identify and go deeper to understand where the problem was taking place, locate which schools were not performing along with the reasons behind non-performance, stressing the necessity for an integrated approach for turn around.

“With the strategy, we are refocusing in a far more comprehensive way, we are focusing on principals and study system. The approach informed us on what the provinces are doing and learn what works in each province, work on information, teacher training and distribution of work books with good quality, as well as mobilising parents to participate…” said Motshekga.

Source: BuaNews