29 March 2018

South Africa: Matric Results Misrepresent What Candidates Really Know

opinion

Our kids' poor exam marks reflect an inability to move beyond rote learning to any true knowledge. Without a culture of questioning and a culture of error, it is going to be difficult for our education system to improve the quality of the matric passes. By MARYKE BAILEY.

Many South African classrooms lack basic resources: infrastructure, books, teachers. But many of the schools that are resourced in a bureaucratic sense still lack two fundamental learning tools: a culture of questioning and a culture of error. A culture of questioning is a classroom practice where both teachers and learners ask many questions across a range of cognitive levels. A culture of error is a classroom practice where teachers and learners recognise the value of mistakes in the learning process, and constantly reflect on correct and incorrect answers. Both practices require knowledgeable, secure and confident teachers.

Many South African teachers struggle to ask good questions, with most apparently limited to straightforward knowledge or recall. Sometimes the children chorus the answers back, or the same three children answer all the questions, or a teacher picks on petrified learners and humiliates them for not knowing the answer. Sometimes there are no questions at all,...

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