South Africa: Statement On the Release of Annual National Assessments Results for 2012 By Mrs Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, Ipontshe Primary School, Tembisa

press release

A warm welcome to the education-loving people of Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng and democratic South Africa. We thank all of you for making possible, with your participation, this announcement of results of the 2012 Annual National Assessments (ANA).

Improving the quality of education is perhaps the most important development task confronting our nation. High-quality education, equally distributed, is one of the most effective and least conflictive ways of transforming a society.

Remarkable advances have been made in access and equity in the schooling system since the 1994 democratic breakthrough. Net enrolment rates have improved. Funding per learner has increased. The schooling system is more equitable. However, quality and efficiency are still a challenge. International and regional studies have shown that SA's learners achieve lower levels in reading, writing and counting.

Among other things, we had therefore to review the curriculum. The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) now provides teachers with curriculum and assessment statements that are clear, concise and unambiguous. This is to enable teachers to improve numeracy and literacy skills of learners.

The revised CAPS are being implemented incrementally per phase in the General Education and Training (GET) and Further Education and Training (FET) bands as follows: Grades R, 1-3 and 10 in 2012; Grades 4 - 6 and 11 in 2013; and Grades 7 - 9 and 12 in 2014.

From all reports we have received on CAPS, teachers, managers and parents are very happy with changes made in our curriculum and have expressed great confidence in the improved curriculum.

We are very happy to also confidently say through the new Curriculum Assessment and Policy Statement, the system is now safely sailing out of its OBE troubled waters and moving towards safe waters. Fundamentals are in place and what is now needed is traction to move forward as we should.

Following the release of ANA results in June 2011, a national strategy to improve literacy and numeracy achievement in all schools was implemented. The strategy assisted in ensuring that the quality of education is improved dramatically.

It did this by strengthening the capacity of teachers to deliver the literacy and numeracy curriculum in particular. For all managers in the sector, (principals, district, provincial and DBE officials), this strategy helped in providing relevant and adequate support to both teachers and learners.

During the 2011/12 financial year, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) printed Literacy and Numeracy workbooks for 6 million learners (Grades 1 - 6). In 2012, Mathematics workbooks were also printed and distributed to learners in Grade 9.

Our aim was to ensure that schools with inadequate learning resources and photocopying facilities were supported through the provision of workbooks.

The workbooks helped teachers in monitoring learners' performance in key activities and in preparing them for formats used in standardized assessments. In 2012, schools were made aware of the nature of the ANA test through ANA test exemplars.

The purpose was to expose teachers to different ways of questioning that best suited different learning styles of learners without compromising on the skills assessed. Exemplar tests were accompanied by ANA assessment guidelines. Overall, the system was fairly well prepared for ANA 2012.

Ms Bulelwa Simanga, whose son, Hlomla, is a Grade 3 learner at Bergland Lower Primary School in Mpumalanga, had requested that her son be allowed to write his Numeracy paper in Johannesburg. She had a meeting there and her son would have been with her. She didn't want him to miss his test.

She said:

"It is very seldom for civilians to give credit and recognition to public officials for the extra mile they're always prepared to endure in ensuring service is delivered to communities they serve. It is therefore my wish to extend a word of appreciation and gratitude... My request was dealt with expeditiously....

"Contrary to popular perceptions, I'm very glad to be associated with a department that's willing to serve at all times...You've all made a difference in my son's life and I'm happy to advise you that he has also passed the examination with flying colours."

This level of professionalism and service to the people flow from the fact that we treat the Annual National Assessment as an essential tool that is at the heart of monitoring progress in achieving our targets on learner achievement.

ANA 2012 was a massive undertaking with over 7 million learners writing. This is an achievement in itself, showing teachers are getting it right and learners are making progress.

Learner performance in the Foundation Phase (Grades 1, 2 and 3) is pleasing. There's progress also in the Intermediate Phase (Grade 4, 5 and 6).

While not unexpected, the results for Grade 9, particularly for Mathematics are a cause for great concern. In Grade 3, the national average performance in Literacy, stands at 52% as compared to 35% in 2011, registering an improvement of 17% from 2011.

I must say this is extremely encouraging and should give South Africans great hope that at this rate, we will reach, or even surpass, the targets we have set for ourselves. This is a big margin to achieve in a year by any standards. Provincial performance ranges between 46% and 57%.

In Grade 3 Numeracy, our learners are performing at an average of 41% as compared to 28% in 2011. Again, great improvement, of 13%, particularly noting our commitment to ensure that our learners pursue mathematics and science in later grades. This will help them build solid skills so that they can take these subjects with all the necessary confidence.

As a department, we are equally concerned that few learners pursue maths and science in the FET phase and even those who have the potential to take these subjects don't. Among many other reasons, including the availability of teachers, is the fear of failing as they witness others not making the grade.

Provincial performance ranges between 34% and 47%. (Gauteng and Western Cape are the highest.)

In Grade 6, the national average performance in Language is 43% (Home Language) and 36% (First Additional Language) as compared to 28% in 2011. This is an improvement of 15% (in HL), putting us on track with our 60% target of 2014.

You will note that in 2011, we did not assess first additional language and this result will act as our benchmark moving forward. Paying attention to first additional language is very important because the challenge with our education system is that the majority of our learners who are Black Africans study in a language which is not their first home language.

Provincial performance in Home Language ranges between 28% and 52%. (Free State is the highest). Provincial performance in First Additional Language ranges between 31% and 43%.

In Grade 6 Mathematics, the average performance is 27% as compared to 30% in 2011. Provincial performance ranges between 21% and 33%. I guess this is also understandable noting that improvements in mathematical skills require the acquisition of conceptual skills first for learners to make the necessary progress.

In Grade 9 (written for the first time), the national average performance in Language stands at 43% (Home Language) and 35% (First Additional Language).

Provincial performance in Home Language ranges between 31% and 50%. Provincial performance in First Additional Language ranges between 30% and 40%.

These, and the literacy results, are benchmark results. They also help us pay special attention to a very important phase in the system, the phase during and after which we lose many children, with very high dropout rates.

In Grade 9 Mathematics, the average performance is 13%. Provincial performance ranges between 9% and 17%.

These results explain to a very large extent why among many other reasons, we have such high failure and dropout rates at Grades 10 and 11.

The national average performance for Grades 1, 2, 4 and 5 in Literacy in 2012 is as follows:

Grade 1 = 58%. It was 59% in 2011.

Grade 2 = 55%, compared to 52% in 2011.

Grade 4 = 43% Home Language and 34% First Additional Language, compared to 34% in 2011. (These are new benchmark results.)

Grade 5 = 40% (Home Language) and 30% (First Additional Language), compared to 28% in 2011.

The national average performance for Grades 1, 2, 4 and 5 in Numeracy in 2012 is as follows:

Grade 1 = 68%, from 63% in 2011

Grade 2 = 57% from 55% in 2011

Grade 4 = 37% from 28% in 2011

Grade 5 = 30% from 28% in 2011

The different levels of performance with learners performing above 50% for Literacy/Language, show that:

In Grade 3, 57% of learners achieved above 50% in Literacy, compared to 31% in 2011.

In Grade 6, 39% (Home Language) and 24% (First Additional Language) of learners achieved above 50% in Language, compared to 15% in 2011.

In respect of other grades, in Literacy/Language:

In Grade 1, 64% of learners achieved above 50%.

In Grade 2, 64% of learners achieved above 50%.

In Grade 4, 41% (Home Language) and 25% (First Additional Language) of learners achieved above 50%.

In Grade 5, 37% (Home Language) and 16% (First Additional Language) of learners achieved above 50%.

In Grade 9, 39% (Home Language) and 21% (First Additional Language) of learners achieved above 50%.

This is very important for us because the idea is not only to improve the general average but also to pull up poor performers and make sure that many of our children move out of the non-achieved categories.

In terms of the different levels of performance for Numeracy/Mathematics:

In Grade 3, 36% of learners achieved above 50%, compared to 17% in 2011

In Grade 6, 11% of learners achieved above 50%, compared to 12% in 2011.

And in respect of other grades (in Numeracy/Mathematics):

In Grade 1, 77% of learners achieved above 50%

In Grade 2, 68% of learners achieved above 50%

In Grade 4, 26% of learners achieved above 50%

In Grade 5, 16% of learners achieved above 50%

In Grade 9, 2% of learners achieved above 50%.

In addition to performance of Grade 4s, 5s and 9s in particular, more attention has to be paid to the lower end of the system.

These improvements again are a source of great hope because we are beginning to see improvements at the lower end of the system whilst we have to be concerned that the higher end seems to be stagnating.

As we pay attention to the lower end, we cannot lose our focus on ensuring that good parts of our system keep on improving.

At this point, I would like to congratulate our hosts, Ipontshe

Primary School, on achieving an average percentage mark of above 60% in the Foundation Phase in Numeracy and Literacy.

Colleagues, it is clear that there will be no magical solutions. To keep moving, the journey has to be deliberate and conscious. To reach our destination we will need to continue focusing on our 3Ts - Teachers, Text and Time on task.

We will raise South Africa's learning outcomes and achieve our educational goals to the extent that:

Schools are adequately resourced with learning materials.

There are dedicated, prepared and committed teachers who are in class, prepared and teaching at least seven hours a day.

All teams are using reliable and appropriate assessment tools.

Schooling communities are respecting time, using all the allocated time for teaching, to ensure coverage of all topics as prescribed by the curriculum.

On the whole, the 2012 ANA results show we are moving forward.

This is the more reason for celebrating our gains in education while consolidating our advances as promised in the 2012/13 Budget Vote speech for Basic Education. ANA is a testing programme that requires all schools to conduct the same grade-specific Language and Mathematics tests for Grades 1 to 6 and Grade 9.

The choice of subjects to prioritise for monitoring is informed by the recognition, worldwide, that literacy and numeracy are key foundational skills that predispose learners to effective learning in all fields of knowledge.

While assessment by itself cannot improve learning, it provides important evidence to inform planning and development of appropriate interventions for improvement at all levels, from national through provinces and districts to individual schools.

ANA has exposed teachers across the country to what national experts consider to be best practice in assessments. This gives teachers a clearer idea of how to proceed when developing their own assessments at critical points in the school year.

Most benchmark tests reveal that our schools have low expectations from our learners and thus pitch both teaching and assessment a bit too low. With ANA, districts now have a standard source of information to determine which schools are most urgently in need of support.

Information from ANA will be leveraged further to direct teachers towards particular kinds of teacher development programmes and to engage seriously with school principals on specific subject-based challenges confronting schools.

ANA has made it possible for primary schools to do what secondary schools have been doing all along with matric results. Matric results are used as a common yardstick to measure improvement over the years.

Matric results for 2012 will be announced on 3 January 2013. Most importantly, ANA affords parents the right to know how well their children's schools are performing. It creates a platform for parents to become actively involved in school governance and school improvement.

This matter of parental and community participation will be subjected to robust discussion by education role-players at the National Stakeholders Roundtable on partnerships in education. It will be held 6 December 2013, in Johannesburg.

Mechanisms by which DBE plans to improve learning outcomes include the following:

Attracting young, talented and appropriately trained teachers into the profession while paying attention to improving and enhancing teaching skills and content knowledge of those already in the profession.

Ensuring that learners cover all the topics required for each school year. Our monitoring results revealed that curriculum coverage, quality class work, good classroom practice, teachers content knowledge and skills, require more attention.

We need to accelerate school infrastructure. The urgency to provide appropriate and safe schools cannot be over emphasised. Government, through the President's Infrastructure Coordinating Committee, is providing both resources and support to the Department to achieve this end. This is also an area where as a sector we have to pay more attention and invest more of our energies.

Another priority is ensuring that every learner has access to a minimum set of textbooks and workbooks required according to national policy. Our target is that by 2014 there should be a textbook for every learner in every subject.

Whilst in 2007 our coverage stood at 45% in literacy and 36% for maths books, according to SAQMEC results, our 2011 survey put us at 78% for literacy and 83% for maths. On the other hand, we have 85% in literacy and 81% in workbooks' coverage. This progress, in improving coverage, gives us great confidence that we are on track for full coverage by 2014.

We are also focusing on improving access to quality early childhood development below Grade 1. We are on track with our target for full coverage in 2014. Our 2011 monitoring results have revealed that between 2002 and 2012 the country has made great strides by improving from 39.3% in 2002 to 84.8% in 2012.

As can be seen from performance in lower grades, this universal coverage is a very important investment to ensure that the system is sustainably improved.

We are strengthening teacher development and training. Here we are guided by the strategic planning framework for teacher education and development and the memorandum of understanding between DBE and Teacher Unions.

Through the education partnership initiative, we will also benefit greatly from work undertaken by different players outside the system. As we prepare for its launch, early in 2013, we need all NGOs and business involved in education to register with the Department so that we can strengthen our collaboration.

In a nutshell, 2012 has been a very dramatic year showing that progress in education can be achieved through deliberate and purposeful action, encouraging us to consolidate our advances as we celebrate our achievements.

We are ready to start the new year. Delivery of books is on track. We have been monitoring this aspect of our work and have done a lot of work with our provinces, especially in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape.

On 28 November (2012), I received a report that 100% of books were delivered to all Limpopo schools for the grades phasing in the CAPS curriculum in 2013. For the remaining 7 days of the school calendar, districts and provinces will be involved in a mopping-up exercise.

Positive results have also been received for Eastern Cape and other provinces. IQMS and QLTC coordinators have visited a sample of 1500 schools to ascertain the level of readiness for 2013, guided by a monitoring instrument we have developed for this purpose.

Through a partnership with both the Departments of Correctional Services and Labour, school furniture is being manufactured so that as national we can complement work done by provinces. As national, in addition to work undertaken by provinces, we have established special teams to strengthen our monitoring and support work for provinces.

These include a team to audit provincial reading programmes and investigate the strengths and weaknesses of implementation of reading programmes conducted in provinces.

This is in order to identify and inform the nature of support that the national department can provide to provinces, and through them to schools. In addition, we also need to provide possibilities for information-sharing and learning. This team will report in January.

A team to do the same for maths, science and technology is in the process of being established and will report at the end of February. Our aim is to have a more intensive, deliberate and dedicated programme to intensify our work not only within the department but also with our business and civil society partners.

Through the education partnerships initiative, to be launched in 2013, the President's call of making education a societal issue will be strengthened - by way of clear and structured partnerships with School Governing Bodies (SGBs), education non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international donors, education research institutions, business supporting education and other partners.

Last but not least, I would like to thank all MECs and HODs for their efforts. ANA 2012 would not have been possible without hard work on the part of provincial and district officials.

To my Director-General, Mr Bobby Soobrayan, and his team, thank you for a job well done. There are areas we need to strengthen for ANA 2013. I am confident the team will again rise to the occasion as you've done in respect of ANA 2012.

To all learners and parents, your efforts are not in vain. The results bear testimony to your commitment and dedication.

In the spirit of "ekurhuleni," as we have it in Xitsonga, let's all make South Africa a place of peace where women and children live happily, free from the cruelty of patriarchy and domination.

This we must do beyond the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on No Violence against Women and Children and beyond the International World Aids Day.

Working together we can do more to improve the quality of education for good health, development, inclusive growth, prosperity, and a better life for all our people.

I thank you!

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