South Africa

Shock drop in school test marks in South Africa

The Western Cape Education Department has published its latest systemic test results, showing that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on learning and teaching in the country.

While schools have now returned to full-time attendance, the test results conducted in the Western Cape in October 2021 provide the clearest, internationally benchmarked and independent analysis of learning losses suffered by the learners in the province, said provincial minister of education Debbie Schäfer.

“While we are the only province to conduct such tests, it is an indication of what the effects of this pandemic are on learners across South Africa. Unfortunately, the results are dire.

“The 2021 results are seen in comparison to tests conducted in 2019, as testing could not take place in 2020. While we had previously made great progress with a steady increase in performance in years preceding 2020, these gains have unfortunately been reversed as a result of the pandemic.”

The results are as follows:

Grade 3

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Grade 6

Grade 9

Overall, learners have fallen up to 70% of a school year behind previous cohorts in language, and up to 106% of a year behind in mathematics. The greatest learning losses can be seen in the foundation phase, Schäfer said.

“We have always maintained that the loss of contact (face-to-face) teaching time would affect our youngest learners the most as they do not have the same self-discipline, maturity or structure that our older learners would have to cope with rotating timetables and learning at home.

“The WCED is studying these results and accompanying diagnostics with a focus on updating its learning recovery plans to address these losses.”

The department said it already has a number of programmes underway to improve literacy and numeracy, which we are looking at expanding.

“Most importantly, the extent of learning loss needs to be determined at the classroom level by the teacher. The diagnostics emanating from the systemic testing will be presented as a useful aid to direct the teacher in planning learning programmes for the learners in specific skills and core competencies for each of the grades and subject areas.

“Ultimately, the most important way to claw back these losses is to ensure that every child is at school every day, that teaching and learning time is maximised, and that every effort is made to promote a learning culture beyond the school. Our administrative data from Temporary Revised Education Plans (TREPs) show that between closures and rotating timetables, 155 school days were lost in 2020 and 2021 in our province.”

Schäfer further warned that further disruptions will only exacerbate the existing losses.

Read: New school changes for South Africa get the green light

Artmotion S.Africa

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