Department of Education could scrap Maths as a compulsory subject

Maths may soon not be compulsory for learners in the Senior Phase. But it's not what you think.

Mathematics could in the near future be removed as a compulsory promotion requirement for all learners in the Senior Phase.

Additionally, the mark for passing four subjects, one of which must be a home language, could also be reduced from 50 to 40%, while the pass mark for the remainder of the four subjects could be 30%.

These are all but matters the Department of Basic Education is considering and will consult on with parents, educationists, assessment experts as well as other stakeholders.

In a statement issued by the departmental spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, the department explains that in 2009, the minister of education assigned a task team to investigate, among other things the poor curriculum implemented in schools as well changes to the programme and promotion requirements of the Foundation, Intermediate and Senior Phase.

The National Curriculum Statement for Grades R-12 was then approved as national policy and it contained new promotion and progression requirements. The promotion requirements were, however, not aligned with the National Senior Certificate (NCS) promotion requirements, which is the national benchmark.

Arising from this, the need came to align the promotion requirements across the Foundation, Intermediate and Senior Phase with the Further Education and Training (FET) band.

While monitoring the implementation of the new requirements in provinces, it became apparent to the department during the 2014 mid-year learner performance evaluations that the new promotion requirements had adversely affected the performance of learners at school level.

The department issued National Assessment Circular 3 of 2015 to allow for the adjustment of marks. Then in 2016, given the adverse impact of the compulsory requirement to pass Mathematics at 40%, a special condonation dispensation for Mathematics was applied.

Based on National Assessment Circular 3 of 2016, learners who passed all other subjects, but failed Mathematics with a minimum mark of 20%, were condoned and would thus pass Mathematics and pass the examination as a whole.

“It is therefore considered necessary, having observed the negative impact of the compulsory pass requirement of Mathematics at 40% and Language (Home Language), at 50%, to consider amending policy and regulations in order to respond to the challenges and the unintended consequences brought about by the new programme and promotion requirements.”

Mhlanga says once this issue has been discussed internally and externally, all policy changes will be communicated to the relevant stakeholder bodies. However, until then, this is merely an issue for internal discussion and broader public consultation.

Statement issued by the Department of Basic Education and compiled by Pulane Choane