Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga, accompanied by Deputy Minister, Dr Reginah Mhaule and Director-General, Mr Mathanzima Mweli, this week, presented the Basic Education Portfolio Committee with a progress update on the capacity building of SA Educators for the improvement of Mathematics, Science and Technology. “Mathematics remains a stubborn challenge and all parties and stakeholders must ensure collaboration to improve the results of this important subject,” the Minister said.
Mr Seliki Tlhabane, Chief Director for MST and Curriculum Enhancement Programmes, delivered a presentation on the Pass Rates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Programmes, whilst Mr Phillip Dikgomo, Director for Teacher Development and Implementation, delivered a presentation on progress made on Capacity Building of SA Educators for Learner Improvement in Mathematics, Science and Technology, including the status of Coding and Robotics. The sector has registered commendable progress in terms of performance across all MST subjects. The challenge remains around performance of Mathematics at NSC level, as the performance in these subjects remains stubbornly at 50% and has never gone above 60%. Physical Sciences, however, has registered performances at 70% for a number of years. We need to work hard to improve on the participation rates that have been on the decline in recent years.
“The system rests on the shoulders of teachers. South Africa has improved the opportunities for, and the qualifications of young and dynamic teachers through the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme to enable selected students to complete a teaching qualification in identified subject priority areas. These include gateway subjects and skills for the 21st Century such as MST, Coding and Robotics and ECD for Foundation Phase teaching,” the Minister said.
When examining the TIMSS 2019 results for Grade 5, of the 64 countries that participated, SA learners scored an average of 374 for Mathematics, and 324 for Science, well below the 400 basic thresholds indicating that 37% of learners demonstrated that they had acquired and 63% have not acquired basic Mathematical knowledge. For Grade 9, of the 39 countries participating in 2019, a Mathematics score of 389 and a Science score of 370 was reported, an increase of 17 points for Mathematics and 12 points for Science. A total of 41% of learners demonstrated that they had acquired basic Mathematical knowledge. TIMSS will again be written in September 2023; the selection of participating schools will be on a random sampling basis. Unlike in the past, support programmes have been developed to support teachers to sufficiently prepare learners for their participation.
DG Mweli explained that, “in improving our performance in the MST subjects, a solid foundation is essential. The Thrive by Five Index established that 65% of children are not school ready, and the ECD Census for 2022 revealed that only 1.6 million out of 4.3 million learners are benefitting from quality ECD programmes. The National Development Plan (NDP) target is to increase the number of students eligible to study Mathematics and Science at universities. The performance of SA learners must be benchmarked against countries at a similar level. The Integrated National Strategy for MST Education guides our targets and improvement plans. We are celebrating progress, not necessarily achievements and more needs to be done to improve performance in Mathematics to attain the targets set out in the Learning and Recovery Plan (LRP). In respect of teacher capacity and training, initial and ongoing self-professional development is essential, especially in MST and in Technical subjects. Going forward, the monitoring of Mathematics and Science in the DBE will be strengthened through the DBE’s National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU). There is a need to balance Mathematics participation, performance and quality. Our teachers are supported at the local level through Provincial Teacher Institutes, with a total of eight hubs established. The Mathematics desktop audit, conducted in 2016, will be revisited in 2023 with the assistance of the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) and added components to establish, amongst others, the competency levels, age and number of teachers nationally to direct our way forward in this regard,” DG Mweli concluded.
Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, complemented the DBE on the improved Mathematics participation of female learners (58.6%) compared to male learners (41.4%) offering the subject. The Committee indicated a need for a presentation focusing on Coding and Robotics and ICT Connectivity in the Education Sector.