THE ODDS: GRADE 1 (2017) – MATRIC (2029)?

In the wake of the 2016 matric results, various academics and members of civil society have legitimately advocated for attention to be focused on the early years of schooling, instead of matric results. There has also been much discussion about the department’s progression policy, which is considered by many to be problematic. Very little has been said about the lack of various forms of support for learners in schools, or that the progression policy is actually a process of progression WITH SUPPORT. And that repetition of a grade does not guarantee progress and development but could contribute to dropping out.

Conrad Strydom, the country’s top matriculant (2016), is described as a struggler who repeated Grade 1. His mother explains that he had difficulties with focusing and fine motor skills which were successfully addressed with therapy.  It is this support (or therapy), that has eluded us in most schools.  What would the future of this top student have been if he had not received that support when he did? Click here for story

The DBE has failed to effectively implement and resource the support envisaged in White Paper 6 on inclusive education (2001), to address learner diversity; the Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support policy (2014); or the CAPS Guidelines on Responding to Learner Diversity in the Classroom (2011). This has contributed to the large-scale exclusion of children, whether from access (as is the case for many children with disabilities), or meaningful participation, due to overcrowded classes, poor teaching, poor nutrition or health and demotivation, among others.

In-service and pre-service training for teachers continues to focus on maths and literacy, which we agree is needed. But as long as we continue to teach all children using a one-size-fits-all approach, without addressing learner diversity, 60% of our learners who start Grade 1 now, will not be part of the matric passes in 2029. We urge the DBE to invest in, and promote its inclusive education system so that all learners are given the support they need to develop to their full potential and become independent, active citizens.