Grade nine maths average slips badly in 2014

The average performance of grade nine pupils in maths has dropped again – to 10.8%, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Thursday at the release of the Annual National Assessments (ANAs).

“Our Achilles heel remains the unacceptably low performance in grade nine mathematics … we will institute an intensive investigation into what factors contribute to low performance in schools offering grades seven to nine [senior phase] generally and grade nine mathematics in particular,” she said.

Last year, grade nine pupils’ performance in maths was 14%, up from 13% in 2012.

The assessments, which began in 2011, measure the numeracy and literacy of 7.3-million pupils in grades one to six, and in grade nine.

This year, pupils in grade seven and eight were also included as a pilot project “in preparation for a full-scale incorporation of the senior phase into the ANA tool in the foreseeable future”, Motshekga said.


The average performance in each of the grades in mathematics at a national level is as follows:

Grade one: 68.4%

Grade two: 61.8%

Grade three: 55.4%

Grade four: 37.3%

Grade five: 37.3%

Grade six: 43%


The average performance in each of the grades in home languages at a national level is as follows:

Grade one: 63.2%

Grade two: 61.1%

Grade three: 56.2%

Grade four: 56.5%

Grade five: 57.1%

Grade six: 62.7%

Grade nine: 48.3%

The average performance in grades four, five, six and nine in first additional language at a national level is as follows:

Grade four: 41%

Grade five: 46.7%

Grade six: 45.4%

Grade nine: 34.4%

Interventions are ‘not working’
Motshekga said, overall, “the results show that the system is responding to the unrelenting focus on underperformance and inefficiency within the system”.

The patterns showed, she said, that in the transition from foundation phase to the intermediate phase, pupils “find it difficult to handle the more technical aspects of the language usage such as parts of speech, progression to more complex tenses and creative writing”.

This learning gap affected other subjects too.

“Evidence … indicates that pupils in the intermediate phase find it difficult to correctly answer questions in mathematics that involve ‘words or high text’ problems.”

The investigation into grade nine maths would involve a “baseline study of the sampled schools”, she said, to “provide deeper information about these schools, particularly on issues pertaining to curriculum coverage and the quality of school-based assessment”. Ten percent of all schools offering grade nine maths would be sampled for “closer monitoring”, she said.

The president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, Basil Manuel, said the grade nine maths results showed that interventions to improve it were not working.

“The department must move out of bureaucratic [action] and into schools. Interventions must focus on teacher’s subject content knowledge and methodology.”

He said heads of departments at schools must be trained to train teachers.

Motshekga said classroom teaching must improve so that learners could receive quality knowledge at the requisite level.

“To achieve this we have launched various initiatives, including 131 fully functioning teacher training centres, including 40 information and communications technology enabled centres supported by our generous partner Vodacom.” – Mail & Guardian

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Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

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