Mathematics is compulsory from grade 1 to 9 in the South African schooling system.
From grade 10, learners have an option of offering one of the following three forms of mathematics, (a) Mathematics (as we know it) (b) Mathematical literacy (for learners who do not intend pursuing Post Schooling careers that will require mathematics as part of the admission requirements) and (c) Technical Mathematics (for learners who intend pursuing technology related careers).
It, therefore, needs to be understood that there is no learner in the system who at any point does not offer one or another form of mathematics until they complete their grade 12. This makes mathematics, in whatever form, compulsory for all learners in the system.
This is the position of the department regarding the offering of mathematics by the South African learners and the department is not intending to change this position now or in the near future.
We have, however, noted with great concern the misinformation to the nation by certain quarters of the media that suggests that the sector is intending to bring changes by making mathematics optional.
This is far from the truth and is misleading as the Department of Basic Education continues to recognise the role that mathematics plays and will continue to play in the development of our nation.
We have made great strides as a nation in improving learner performance in mathematics, and this is demonstrated by the recent improved performance of our learners in national, regional and international assessments as reflected in the National Senior Certificate, SACMEQ and TIMMS respectively.
The number of learners passing mathematics at 50% in grade 12 has increased in recent years as well as the number of learners passing the subject with distinctions. We have also seen learners from quintile 1 to 3 (these are schools from disadvantaged and economically poor communities) performing as well as learners from quintile 4 to 5 schools.
South Africa has registered great improvement in the recently released SACMEQ tests, where South Africa was reported to be the most improved country in the mathematics scores. The same trends were observed in the TIMMS results where South Africa registered the highest improvement of all participating countries.
These improvements did not come by chance, but came as a result of concerted effort by all stakeholders, from the sector, social partners and the civil society. This included, improved development and supply of good learning and teaching support materials, teacher supply, by both government and partners like Teach SA as well as teacher development initiatives rolled out by government and non-government organisations supported by key partners like Centre for the Advancement of Mathematics (CASME), Statistics South Africa, Interactive Simulations, ETDP SETA, and the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), EDUTRADE, Pearson and Vodacom, amongst others.
The Minister would like to reassure the nation that the importance of mathematics will continue to be highlighted in our curriculum design, as well as education planning.
As a result of the recommendations of the Ministerial Task Team that the Minister established in 2011, the following have been implemented: (a) the Minister established and staffed the Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) office with a Senior Manager as well as the subject specialists from each of the MST subjects including mathematics. (b) The Dinaledi Schools Conditional Grants and the Technical Schools Conditional Grant have been reconfigured into a single grant to support all our efforts to improve the resourcing of our MST efforts. The new grant has been allocated over R 360 million rand this year alone and the figure increases on an annual basis over the MTEF.
The MST office has made great strides in developing mathematics in the country and has worked on increasing the number of schools offering core mathematics and bringing down the number of schools which were pushing learners to drop mathematics in favour of mathematical literacy.
The Department has published a set of proposals regarding minimum promotion requirements for the Senior Phase (grades 7, 8, and 9). The proposals are not new but merely aligning the minimum promotion requirements with those currently being applied in grade 10, 11 and 12. The proposals are as follows;
a) Pass four subjects at 40%, one of which is a Home Language;
b) Pass any other four subjects at 30%; and
c) Mathematics removed as a compulsory promotion requirement.
The above proposal is aligned to the current requirements in the FET band.
Once discussed internally and externally, approved and promulgated the relevant policy and curriculum changes will be communicated to all relevant stakeholder bodies by means of official curriculum and examination circulars. At this point this is merely an issue for internal discussion and broader public consultation.
Enquiries: Elijah Mhlanga – 083 580 8275