Covid 19 has once again forced the department of the basic education (DBE) to revise the promotion requirements Grade10 and Grade 11. The DBE’s director-general, Mweli Matanzima has issued circular directing schools that Grade 10 and 11 learners should write controlled tests and not the traditional final examinations.
This is the second directive from the department, last month schools were ordered to review their annual teaching plans and trim some of the non-core subjects so that teachers can finish the syllabus this year.
Said Matanzima: “Covid 19 and the extended closure of schools has had a significant impact on schooling, learning and assessment. Therefore, promotion requirements for the year 2020 will not be effected as stipulated in the national policy.” He said other than the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, additional teaching was also lost due to rotational attendance the department adopted to observe the social distancing requirement.
According to Matanzima, the full-scale examinations in Grade 10 and Grade 11 will be replaced by a controlled test, which “should only be set on content taught” and that learners should not be assessed on content they were not taught. The test should also comprise a greater part of the syllabus covered in class.
In terms of the revised promotion requirements the current 25% weighting of the school-based assessment will increase to 60% while the examination component which is currently 75% is decreased to 40%. On the languages, the department prescribes that “12.5% of the examination (First Additional Language and Home Language) and 25% (Second Additional Language) be allocated to Orals”.
Elijah Mhlanga, the DBE’s spokesperson, told the SABC this is a stop-gap measure intended to make up for the disturbance caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. He said they also considered the fact that the difference in content between the two grades is marginal.
“It’s a once-off measure that we have put in place after we looked at everything that affected schooling this year and we felt it would not be fair to have a full-scale examination when schools were closed and reopened. With the trimmed curriculum we realised that we are not going to finish the syllabus,” said Mhlanga
In addition, said Mhlanga, Grade 10 and 11s learn the same thing; it is just the degree of difficulty of what they are learning. It is basically something that is not really new to them. So what we are going to do is create more time next year to ensure that all the work that was not covered is covered then.
Teacher unions have also thrown their weight behind the new promotion requirements. National Teachers’ Union (Natu) said it welcome the decision but said this should have been extended to other grades as majority of learners (across the grades) have also been affected by the disruptions. South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu)’s Mugwena Maluleke said this was long overdue adding they have been advising the department to allow teachers to exercise their professional judgment when they assess the learners.
Meanwhile observers have warned that the number of dropouts will increase this year because most learners have stayed away from school since the first recess forced by the coronavirus.
Women in Science. Africa carried a story early this week where, Professor Mary Metcalfe advised teachers and parents to recognise that most learners have been away from school for a long time due to anxieties related to the pandemic. She called on the school principals to reach out and provide psycho-social support to learners and ensure that schools become caring spaces and accommodate learners’ frustrations.