Major shake-up proposed for South African schools – including new rules for failing students

The Department of Education is considering a ‘no repeat policy’ for foundation phase learners at South African schools.

In her 2018/2019 budget speech published in May, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said that one of her key focuses for the upcoming year was a review of the country’s progression and promotion policies – especially in the lower grades.

“A number of education experts have opined on this matter, and the overwhelming message is that it does not make any educational sense to make young children aged six to ten years, repeat a grade,” she said.

“According to the experts, the children who repeat, on the whole, gain absolutely nothing. On the contrary, for many affected children, repetition is a powerful early signal of failure – a signal that lasts through the individual’s life.

“To improve the efficiency of the system, we are also focusing on Grades 9 to 11, as repetition and drop-out rates are also high in these grades.”

‘Not a good idea’

While Motshekga said that policy change was supported by academic research, some education experts have slammed the proposal.

Speaking to CapeTalk, creative parenting consultant Nikki Bush said that these progressed learners would be put at a distinct disadvantage.

“It is a very controversial issue and will have a serious impact on children and business who will one day want to employ numero-literate people,” she said.

She added that the policy would only put a ‘bandaid’ on the problem, and would effectively push the bottleneck up to grade 4 level.

Early childhood development

The new progression policy forms part of a complete revamp of the lower-level grades at South African schools

As part of its election manifesto published in January, the ANC said that it is preparing to make two years of Early Childhood Development compulsory (ECD) for all children.

This compulsory enrolment will apply to all South African children between the ages of four and five and will take place before the child enters grade 1.

In her May budget presentation, Motshekga said that her department had already begun making arrangements to include the provision and monitoring of ECD.

She said that her department was also looking to improve the overall level of education at these lower grades.

“We have repeatedly stated that the internal efficiency of the system and quality basic education outcomes can only be achieved through specific and deliberate interventions in the early Grades,” she said.

“This, we are doing, because research shows that the major root causes of failure and drop-out rates towards the end of secondary schooling, are weak learning foundations.

“Therefore, our primary focus is to improve the quality of learning and teaching as well as quality outcomes in the early grades.”


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Major shake-up proposed for South African schools – including new rules for failing students