South Africa's Maths woes worsen-But there is still hope in Maths
Can South Africa's Mathematics problems improve and what can we do to remedy the situation?
All over the world, Mathematics is one of the most failed subjects and is usually used as a benchmark in rating a country's education system together with literacy or English. This is because the Maths requires a lot of critical thinking, logical reasoning and custom thinking. Employers have also recognized that applicants with good Maths passes are more successful and tend to be more logical and strategic in their thinking.
South Africa's Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy
South Africa however has not improved when it comes to Maths passes but actually studies show that the country has plummeted further into chaos. Maths results are still appalling.
Two types of Mathematics being studied.
Pure Mathematics: This is the Core Maths and the one that requires more critical thinking and reasoning. Less than 10% of learners study usually enroll for this Maths
Mathematical Literacy: This is the simpler version of Maths and usually most learners gravitate to it. This type of Maths usually deals with more real life scenarios such as budgeting, finance etc that learners face in everyday life. There is very minimal algebra which is the foundation of Pure Maths.
To look at these Curriculum Documents visit here:
With the two types of Maths in place, what has naturally occurred is that Pure Maths has been dropped and most learners forced to do Maths Literacy producing a generation that is weak and poor when it comes to workplace solutions.
Department of Basic Education fully aware of its failure
The Department of Education is fully aware of and fully responsible of its failure. The problem starts as early as Grade 4. There are four exit phases in the life child of a child studying towards their first certificate which they obtain after 12 years. For example, a child who completed and passed their Matric (Grade 12) in 2016 started their Grade 1 in 2005, and only twelve years later got their first certificate.
The first phase is the Foundation Phase which is grade 1-3
The second phase is Intermediate Phase which is grade 4-6
The their phase is the Senior Phase which is Grade 7-9
The fourth phase is the Further Education and Training which is Grade 10-12
The crises starts as early as grade 4
In all these phases, the crisis starts in Grade 4. In the foundation phase, most kids are taught Mathematics in their mother tongue. They are 11 official languages in South Africa and kids learn Maths in their own language. By the time they graduate to the next phase in Grade 4, most of these kids are suddenly faced with what I can term a language shock because all of a sudden, everything that was learnt in their mother tougue is now switched to English.
And many start to fail from this point, not because the kids are stupid or incapable, but mainly because the major barrier is the language-English. Their maths struggles also start at this point too.
Department failure further drops Maths passes
In 2016, the department sent out a circular to pass learners who got 20% pass in Maths. Read here
The department of basic education having seen the crisis with Maths especially in the Senior Phase has succumbed to pressure and further lowered the requirements for a child to be promoted to the next grade. A Maths mark as low as 20% has been accepted by the Department arguing that if a learner managed to pass all the subjects but failed Maths and only obtained 20% and above, that learner must be allowed to progress to the next grade. However that learner must not be allowed to continue studying Pure Maths but must change to Mathematical Literacy.
Matric poor Maths Marks are no shock at all
When you look at the learner Maths marks by the time they reach Grade 12, most of them are barely at 30% and their mindset is set in such a lower mark that anything slightly above this is celebrated. What a shame and set up for failure the country is preparing future.
But what do we do?
De we allow our future to be bleak?
Absolutely NOT. We can take responsibility and accountability as a collective and take positive steps towards change.
Take your kids to extra Maths interventions
Parents are hoping teachers will work out magic on their kids' passes with regard to Maths and at the same time teachers are expecting the parents will be more responsible in assisting their children with Maths.
The solution however is inclusive of both parents and teachers. As teachers administer extra lessons to their learners, parents must also enroll children for extra lessons if they want to see notable changes in their children's performance. While being aware of mostly the prevailing poverty that most kinds come from, however parents must learn to sacrifice and start to take extra interventions with more importance and encourage learners to attend these classes and offer support in terms of paying the tuition.
Extra tuition is currently the best way to help improve Maths passes as the normal notional time currently is not enough to remedy the content gaps these learners are having. Accept it or note, but drastic situations calls for drastic measures as well.
We at Ekurhuleni Tech College have also decided to help solve this crisis regarding Maths. We have opened a Maths Saturday School in Krugersdorp for Grade 10-12 in order to assist kids struggling with maths and ensure they reach their goals in life. For more information you can visit