Students need to be adequately prepared to undertake the Annual National Assessments (ANAs), and the tests should not simply be used for promotional purposes. That was the view of one of Cape Town’s most vocal educators, Brian Isaacs, a member of the Progressive Principals Association (PPA).
The ANA’s has been at the centre of a controversy in recent weeks after the Department of Basic Education scrapped the tests at the last minute, following opposition from teachers’ unions over its content. Basic education minister Angie Motshekga however decided the tests would be moved to December, much to the dismay of teacher’s and unions.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has maintained that it will not administer the tests as scheduled, despite the department’s insistence that the ANA’s will help assess the current state of the education system. The ANA’s were initiated in 2011 to gauge whether pupils in Grades 1 to 6 and 9 are literate and numerate at grade-appropriate levels. The results last year showed only 3 percent of Grade 9 pupils were numerate at a grade-appropriate level. The average mark in Grade 9 mathematics was a dismal 10.8 percent.
Isaacs said that whilst such assessment examinations have been taking place since 2001 with the advent of the OBE system, it has rarely proven “educationally sound”. This, he said, was the main concern of teachers.
“I don’t think anybody has a problem with national testing in the home language and maths, but why should it be done at the end of the year. We believe it should be included in the promotion requirements for people to progress to the next grade,” he explained.
He said that holding the tests in the middle of the September exams, it would serve no purpose whatsoever. The results would be ‘unbalanced’ due to students not putting in the required effort for it. While the tests have since been postponed to December, he still believed the tests would bear little fruition.
“It is after the November exams. In other words students have already been promoted, and then they are asking them to come and right these exams. What for I ask?” he questioned.
The PPA was formed in 2011 to lobby for quality education and to address the challenges faced by underpriveleged schools. Isaacs, the principal of South Peninsula High, was one of the founding members, along with Riyaad Najaar, the principal of Spine Road high and Achmat Chotia from Glendale high.
Isaacs said there was a need to consult teachers on the matter, with the lack thereof being the reason the department was finding itself in a “precarious situation” where teachers were vowing not to administer the tests.
“We will not write those ANAs. We feel there is enough support amongst the teachers. We for very sound reasons are saying that for this year the ANAs must not be written, and the department must consult the various stakeholders,” he said.
He also rejected suggestions the downing of tools would compromise the education of students, as the tests were not taken into consideration to promote the children. VOC