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Government’s Progression Policy For Grade 4 & 9 Learners Given Thumbs Up By Teachers’ Unions, Education Experts

NYAKALLO TEFU

TEACHERS’ unions and education experts have welcomed the government’s decision to give learners in Grade 4 and Grade 9 up to 5% extra marks to help them pass the 2020 academic year.

The decision by Department of Basic Education comes after interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basic Education’s director-general Mathanzima Mweli said mark adjustments and condonations were used as special dispensations to offset potential high retention of learners in an academic year.

“In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions and related learning losses experienced in grades four to nine, the application of these special dispensations are continued,” said Mweli.

The circular sent to schools by the government states that a mark adjustment of 5% is allowed in a maximum of three subjects, and thereafter, a further condonation in Mathematics must be applied.

This requires learners who would have passed except for their mathematics mark, to be allowed through to the next Grade in 2021 via a “condoned” pass.

This is regardless of the mark they receive for mathematics, Mweli confirmed.

Mweli also noted that grade nine learners who are condoned, and who achieve less than 30% for mathematics, should still be allowed to take Mathematics in Grade 10.

“As in 2019, there is no restriction of only choosing Mathematical Literacy as a result of the Mathematics condonation,” said Mweli.

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said the union welcomed the government’s decision to give 5% marks to learners, saying it was in line with international practice following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year, it was 2%. This year it was increased to 5% because of the learning time lost due to COVID-19. Condonations are not new. They happen all the time,’ said Cembi.

“We support this decision because it is not only happening in SA. It is a worldwide issue and it is in line with international norms. Some countries have also opted not to have exams at all this year because of COVID-19.”

Allen Thompson, leader of the National Teachers’ Union (NATU), said his organization unreservedly supported the controversial move by government to offer extra marks to learners.

“We support the move by the government. We believe that it will reduce the stress on the learner’s side and allow them to move forward and not forfeit the year because of COVID-19,” said Thompson.

“That is what we call a standardisation process. The standardisation process is always guided by different factors. Looking at the current situation learners, could not stay at school as much as those doing the same Grade the last year and the year before who benefited from extra hours, Saturday classes and excursions. The learners in 2020 never benefited from that.”

“We were one of the people making the call for the department and made the same call for matrics, to say there must be a percentage that is going to recognize what is happening in the country and world in general, that learners could not attend full days of learning or interact with learners.”

Mary Metcalfe, the former MEC for Education in Gauteng, who is currently with the University of Johannesburg as Senior Research Associate, said the guidance given to schools from Grade 4 to Grade 9 is a framework within which school management teams will support teachers to make promotion decisions based on the best interest of learners.

“It can never be a narrow arithmetic application of that guideline. The reason why there needs to be greater flexibility in 2020 in terms of schools making that judgement is because it is at school level that teachers are able to exercise their professional judgement in terms of the needs of learners relative to the time that they have had to learn and the challenges they will face as teachers in taking the cohort through in 2021,” said Metcalfe.

“During 2020, learners missed a great deal of school, in terms of normal school days because of COVID-19 and even when they have returned to school as the lockdowns were lifted, learners are alternating every second day.”

“The catch-up period for COVID-19 is not simply in 2020 or even 2021. It will take two to three years to fully catch up all the time lost. Teachers will use the guidelines provided by the DBE to make promotions decisions for learners about whether they will cope with the academic demands of the subsequent year.”

(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)

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