South African schools set for major shake-up – and experts are worried

Education analysts have warned that the plan to make it impossible for struggling foundation phase learners to fail may have dire consequences for the country’s education system.

In her 2018/2019 budget speech, 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.

While Motshekga said that policy change was supported by academic research, some education experts have slammed the proposal, saying that it is only delaying the problems until later.

In a column for The City Press Tholisa Matheza and Diane Hendricks, education specialists at the University of Cape Town warned that the change is “likely to create more burdens in an already burdened education system”.

“Currently, learning and content backlogs in grades 8 and 9 in mathematics, science and English are becoming more of a challenge,” the researchers said.

“This is largely because poor performance in these subjects results from a gap in foundational knowledge and understanding of content.”

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.

Read: What you can expect from the new coding curriculum being introduced in South African schools

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South African schools set for major shake-up – and experts are worried