South Africa, Pretoria – Expert in the education sector have mixed views on the decision to bump up by 5% marks for the 2020 year-end exams in grades 4 to 9. But, said the department of education, extra help was necessary to ensure deserving children did not suffer more following an already stressful school year.
The department sent a circular to all schools, giving them permission to increase marks by up to five percent in up to three subjects – and an additional one for maths, to assist learners to proceed to the next grade.
This is an increase over the extra 2% which was available last year, with this change being attributed to the interruptions caused by the Covid19 pandemic.
The adjustment should be noted in the report so that the next grade’s teachers were aware and could adjust their teaching accordingly.
“Missing out on more than five months of schooling for many would mean congestion in classes, see many suffer academically and stress over the long term, even when they could have easily achieved the desired marks,” said Department of Basic Education director-general Hubert Mathanzima Mweli.
He said adjustments and condonation passes were a normal aspect of progression and were used as a special dispensation, to avoid the potential high retention of learners in lower grades.
“In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions and related learning losses, especially for learners in grades 4 to 9, the application of these special dispensations are applied,” he said.
Differing opinions were aired followed the circular after the resumption of teaching in September, with the news a huge relief for some but frowned upon by others who are concerned about the long-term implications.
It instructs schools to progress learners to the next grade in 2021 via a “condoned” pass and applies to learners who would have passed. In the case of maths, learners in grade 9 who were condoned, and who achieved less than 30% in mathematics should still be allowed to take maths in Grade 10 next year.
“Condoned learners must have their mathematics mark indicated on their mark schedule, and the letter “C” will be present next to the mark to show that the mark was condoned.”
Mary Metcalfe, the senior research associate at the University of Johannesburg, said the decision was right as learners needed all the support they could get to pass.
“They will need to catch up for the lost time and the process will be over several years. They must be supported and with minimal stress, which takes into account the different environments, among them studying at home.”
She is also of the opinion teachers should be given the flexibility to make decisions they saw fit: “They are best placed to judge if the learning context of the subsequent grade will be able to support them after all.”
Academic Professor Lungie Tseola is, however, of the opinion the circular was an order which assumed schools and in particular educators, had no idea on ways to ensure passing happened where possible.
“Schools knew during lockdown that they would be faced with this, so surely they put their minds together and came up with strategies to mitigate any and all negative outcomes,” she said.