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Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga at the Official Release of the 2014 Annual National Assessments Results, 4 December 2014

Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Official Release of the Annual National Assessments (ANA) Results for 2014 held at the Muzomuhle Primary School, Diepsloot, Gauteng

Good Morning Fellow South Africans!

In his second State of the Nation Address held on the 11 February 2010 the President of the Republic His Excellency Mr. Jacob Zuma announced the birth of the Annual National Assessment tool when he declared: “From this year onwards, all Grade 3, 6 and 9 students will write literacy and numeracy tests that are independently moderated.”

The announcement by the President was greeted with jubilation by a broad range of education stakeholders including experts. The grand idea of ANA is to gauge the extent to which the basic education system is impacting on the critical areas of numeracy and literacy. ANA is a diagnostic tool to help the sector to self-correct. In fact ANA results have become a powerful tool of assessing the health of our basic education system.  It was never intended and it will never be used for any other purposes other than its original intent. Some among us have opined that ANA is being used as a tool to punish and antagonise teachers. Let me make it clear today that the Department of Basic Education and all its nine Provincial Education Departments place a premium on the value of our teachers. We believe that teachers are the heartbeat of a functioning school system. It is often said that the quality of education cannot exceed that of its teachers. We cannot expect teachers to promote quality learning and teaching alone. Hence our contention that education is a societal issue. It is within this context that ANA testing will continue into the foreseeable future to assist both teachers and society not only to diagnose the problems but also to devise sector improvements plans across the system.

We correctly contend that since its inception ANA has been used as a diagnostic tool. Since 2011 and annually thereto learner responses were analysed using the item analysis approach and emanating from this analysis schools have formulated targeted remedial programmes. It is evident from the outcomes of the ANA results of the three years that we have made progress in certain areas and other areas need longer-term interventions. In the Foundation Phase targeted interventions by the Department have helped to achieve the goals that were set in the Action Plan 2014. This has been achieved in both Mathematics and Home Language. In Grade 6 there has been a large increase in the percentage of learners achieving acceptable achievement levels for both Mathematics and Home Language. But the target has not been achieved in Mathematics. In Grade 9 Mathematics achievement is unacceptable low. However; there was an increase in the percentage of learners reaching acceptable levels in Home Language.

In the Intermediate Phase learners in Grade 6 are performing well in subjects taken as Home Languages and across all provinces the achievement level is above 50%. Overall, in Home Languages and Mathematics, there was more than 4% increase in the performance of learners. Learner performance in subjects taken at First Additional Level has remained the same.  

It has been observed that there has been consistent improvement in Home Language conceptualisation. Areas where consistent improvement has been noted include the application of basic reading and writing skills involving sentence construction, writing about objects and answering direct questions from texts. A firm Home Language conceptualisation has positively influenced the performance of foundation phase learners in Mathematics. Learners are able to identify basic arithmetic properties, number value and number operations.


However the patterns observed from the diagnostic information generated across past cycles of ANA indicate that in the transition from foundation phase to the intermediate phase learners 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 further affects learner’s abilities to handle and manipulate information provided in contexts. Evidence from learner scripts in the ANA indicates that learners in the intermediate phase find it difficult to correctly answer questions in Mathematics that involve ‘words or high text’ problems. With each grade, the curriculum requirement involves a progressive understanding of Mathematical terminology and applications as the required content shifts from arithmetic to algebra and basic shapes to spatial relationships. The evidence from ANA shows learners in Grades 4 to 6 find it difficult to display the required problem solving skills in these content areas. This learning gap continues to extend itself into the senior phase where learners are not able to solve problems involving algebraic manipulation and Euclidean geometry and as a result do not score well in the ANA tests. A closer analysis shows that the few who passed demonstrated higher quality responses than in the past. This suggests that, in few schools, there has been a marked focus on the teaching and learning of these critical skills but not so in the majority of schools. Across the different phases, there has been good teaching of factual information but not sufficient engagement in logical reasoning, which is a critical skill in Mathematics.

The results of the 2014 ANA indicate that the performance of learners in the senior phase requires immediate and radical intervention. Performance in Mathematics and Languages is below the minimum promotion levels of 40% and 50% respectively.

A critical starting point is for teachers, school managers and curriculum support officials to intensify support  to learners based on a diagnosis of learner scripts. Following on from the release of the ANA 2013 results, a Diagnostic Report and 2014 Framework for Improvement were generated from the analysis of learner responses in ANA 2013. The Diagnostic Report revealed numerous challenges that learners experienced in certain Mathematics and Language topics. Based on the Diagnostic Report the Framework for Improvement was generated to guide the sector on how to address the challenging topics which, in some cases, were the result of ineffective teaching methods. The 2013 Diagnostic Report and 2014 Framework for Improvement were mediated with the provincial coordinators who were then required to develop Provincial Improvement Plans and District Improvement Plans for targeted support to teachers and learners. In 2015, a greater effort has to be made to strengthen our mediation and utilisation of diagnostic information to highlight and present to teachers, school managers and district curriculum officials, areas of improvement but also critical aspects of knowledge and skills inadequacies.

ANA’s Utility

Fellow South Africans allow me to turn my attention to why ANA is extremely important in our basic education landscape. ANA is premised on the principle that effective testing will afford learners the opportunity to demonstrate relevant skills and understanding and also assist in diagnosing learner shortcomings. Effective testing can provide valuable feedback to schools, teachers, learners and parents. This feedback will assist schools in building on strengths and in developing intervention strategies for learner development. ANA tests are based the content of the first three (3) terms of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for Grades 1–6 and 9.

Key design features of ANA include the following:

·         Testing is limited to Mathematics and Language as key foundational skills for further learning.

·         In all grades learners were tested in their language of learning and teaching (LOLT). This is the principal medium of communication in classroom engagement.

·         Learners write a Language test either at Home Language (HL) or First Additional Language (FAL) level.

·         The focus of the assessment was the terminal points in each phase, i.e. Grades 3, 6 and 9, but all grades in the Foundation and Intermediate phases were assessed in all public ordinary schools and in special schools for learners who are blind, partially sighted or deaf.

·         Test specifications or frameworks aligned to the relevant curriculum guided item and test development.

·         The tests were subjected to review by internal and external panels, each panel member an expert in the field to ensure that the tests were of benchmarked standards.

ANA 2014 Results

The ANA 2014 results are a significant milestone in basic education in more than one sense:

Firstly, this is the first ANA that involves the entire General Education and Training Phase (GET) Band (Grades 1-9) However; Grades 7 and 8 were included as pilot studies based on the fact that 2014 saw the first wall-to-wall implementation of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). Thirdly, this year marked a turning point for ANA as the President had declared that by 2014 at least 60% of South African learners in Grades 3, 6 & 9 must be achieving acceptable levels of achievement in both literacy (language) and numeracy (mathematics).

ANA 2014 was administered on more than 7, 3 million Grades 1-9 learners in all public schools. Grades 7 and 8, as I previously said, were included as a pilot project in preparation for a full-scale incorporation of the Senior Phase into the ANA tool in the foreseeable future. The learners in each grade participated in testing their knowledge and skills in the fundamental competencies of literacy (language) and numeracy (Mathematics) which we all know are critical to further learning in any field of study. Where applicable, the tests were modified for learners who have special learning needs, so that the assessment can be seen as not only credible, but also sensitive in the spirit of our commitment to an inclusive education system.

Quality assurance procedures that were undertaken included:

·         Running pilot studies of the tests,

·         Monitoring of the administration of tests by both the Department of Basic Education and all Provincial Education Departments,

·         Centralized moderation of samples of scripts,

·         Centralized capture of marks and

·         An independent verification of key processes in the assessment. 

The administration of ANA 2014 was preceded by focused interventions by the Department of Basic Education embarked upon following the release of 2013 ANA results. We prioritised a basket of interventions; chief among these was a focus on empowering our districts to provide necessary support to schools to improve teaching and learning. District support coupled with the distribution of workbooks of excellent educational quality to all learners created conditions that enabled our schools, principals and teachers to carry out their respective tasks with increased levels of confidence.

Results Announcement

The average performance in each of the Grades in Mathematics at a national level is as follows:

Grade 1:68.4%; Grade 2: 61.8%; Grade 3: 55.4%; Grade 4: 37.3%; Grade 5: 37.3%; Grade 6: 43% and Grade 9: 10.8%.

The average performance in each of the Grades in Home Languages at a national level is as follows:

Grade 1:63.2%; Grade 2: 61.1%; Grade 3: 56.2%; Grade 4: 56.5%; Grade 5: 57.1%; Grade 6: 62.7% and Grade 9: 48.3%.

The average performance in grades 4, 5, 6, and 9 in First Additional Language at a national level is as follows:

Grade 4: 41%;

Grade 5: 46.7%;

 Grade 6:45.4% and

Grade 9: 34.4%.

The overall performance in ANA 2014 shows an upward trend in performance with average percentage scores increasing by a maximum of 8% in Mathematics in Grade 1 and also increases in all other Grades, except Grade 9. The proportion of learners who achieve acceptable levels of performance stand at over 80% in Grade 1 Mathematics.

Overall, the results show that the system is responding to the unrelenting focus on underperformance and inefficiency within the system. For instance 12 out of 81 districts achieved average percentage scores of 50% and above in Grade 6 Mathematics. Seven of these districts are in Gauteng, four in Western Cape and one in KwaZulu Natal. What these districts have done was to use the 2013 ANA diagnostic results to map out improvements plans – and it worked. In fact 11 of the 12 districts were among the top 12 districts in 2013 similar to almost all other districts their performance increased slightly. This shows ANA’s positive utility in no unmistakable terms.

We have also exceeded the President’s target of achieving at least 60 percent in both Language and Mathematics at the Grade 3 level. The figures stand at 64% and 65% for Grade 3 Language and Mathematics, respectively. At the Grade 6 level the target has been exceeded in Home Language with an average of 77 percent. Unfortunately in Grade 6 Mathematics the results show that we are still falling below the target. At the Grade 9 level the results show a similar trend of underperformance both in Language and Mathematics.

Our Achilles' heel remains the unacceptably low performance in Grade 9 Mathematics. All ANA results and diagnostic reports have flagged the problem of Mathematics teaching and learning throughout the system. This calls for “Business Unusual” if we are to take head on what remains the elephant in the room – learners’ poor grasp of mathematical concepts, and teachers’ apparent lack of requisite academic level in Mathematics to teach Grade 9 Mathematics. These are the twin limitations that we must confront if we are to take the system out of this quagmire.




What is to be done?

Investigation into Grade 9 Mathematics

Further we will institute an intensive investigation into what factors contribute to low performance in schools offering Grades 7 to 9 (Senior Phase) generally and Grade 9 Mathematics in particular. The following components will form part of the investigation.

Conduct a Baseline study of the sampled schools.

This will provide deeper information about these schools, particularly on issues pertaining to curriculum coverage and the quality of school-based assessment.

Sampling of 10% of schools for close monitoring

The department plans to intensify monitoring across the schools. For this to be effective 10% of all secondary schools offering Grade 9 Mathematics will be sampled for closer monitoring. This amounts to 874 schools proportionally distributed in provinces. Monitoring Teams composed of DBE and PED officials will visit and monitor these schools on a quarterly basis.

Reconfiguration of Dinaledi and Technical Schools’ Grants

The current Dinaledi and Technical Schools’ grants will be consolidated into a new Maths, Science and Technology Schools Improvement Grant. The following conceptual challenges based on the current structure of the two grants provide a motivation for a review: firstly the Dinaledi Schools Grant has been funding the Grades 10 – 12 Mathematics and Physical Sciences without offering any support to the Grade 8 and 9 Mathematics and Natural Sciences in the same selected 500 schools. The subject coverage will be extended to Mathematics at all grades including Technology and Natural Sciences in Senior Phase. Secondly the Technical Schools Grant has been supporting 200 of the 1007 schools offering technical subjects. The Technology subject at Senior Phase has also not been considered as priority or feeder subject for Grades 10 - 12 technical fields, at the same schools. This will now all change. Negotiations with the Treasury to reconfigure these grants are at an advanced level.  

Continuous Intervention Programmes

System-wide training on MST in Intermediate and Senior Phases

The department together with Sasol-Inzalo Foundation has implemented a comprehensive training for all Mathematics and Natural Science and Technology subject advisors on critical concepts for a period of 10 days just before the 2014 academic year ended. This was in preparation of the Heads of Departments and lead teachers’ training in the first term of 2015 starting in January. The training is system wide and will be decentralized to circuits and school clusters. A total of twenty thousands (20 000) Heads of Departments and teachers are expected to receive training in the first term. A third of these will be trained on Grade 8 & 9 Mathematics curriculum. Following closely will be the April school vacation training for classroom-based educators for Mathematics. A similar training programme is planned for the Intermediate Phase towards the end of 2015 to prepare learners adequately for the Senior Phase.

2013 Diagnostic Report & 2014 Framework for Improvement

The 2013 Diagnostic Report & 2014 Framework for Improvement were generated from the analysis of learner responses in ANA 2013. The Report revealed numerous challenges that learners experienced in certain Mathematics and Language topics. Based on the Report, the Framework for Improvement was generated to guide the sector on how to address the challenging topics which in some cases were the result of ineffective teaching methods. The 2013 Diagnostic Report & 2014 Framework for Improvement were mediated with the provincial coordinators who were then required to develop Provincial Improvement Plans and District Improvement Plans for targeted support to teachers. Some of the challenges that were revealed in the 2013 Diagnostic Report are still prevalent in the final findings of the 2014 Diagnostic Report. To correct this situation, intensive monitoring and support for teachers will be implemented r in 2015.

Province-Specific Interventions

Each provincial department has implemented teacher development programmes to support the use of ANA results in 2014.  Each district has conducted workshops and training sessions with teachers to implement improvement programmes on the ANA results.  These include generic programmes on the analysis of the ANA results per subject and item; strategies on how to use the results in schools, inclusion of the ANA data in school improvement programmes and topic specific programmes. There is a specific focus on English First Additional Language through the Department of Basic Education- British Council Certificate in Primary Language Teacher programme.  Best practice programmes in this area are the strategies in Gauteng (GPLMS),   Western Cape (LITNUM) and Free State (IBP).  ANA targets setting have been done by a number of provinces. Underperforming schools have been monitored on a quarterly basis and curriculum coverage was the main focus.

Language Framework

The Department of Basic Education has developed a Language Framework for Strengthening the Teaching and Learning of Languages as Subjects and as Languages of Learning and Teaching (LoLT). It seeks to strengthen the promotion, development and acquisition of the official languages through the following strategies:

·         Strategy to strengthen the teaching and learning of Home Language;

·         English across the Curriculum Strategy (EAC) Grades R-12;

·         Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL);

·         English First Additional Language (EFAL); and

·         Introduction of South African Sign Language.

Strengthening of Teaching and Learning of English First Additional Language (EFAL)

Of these strategies the English First Additional Language has been strengthened by our partnership with the British Council wherein teachers study and obtain a Certificate in Primary English Language Teaching (CiPELT) and this contributed to the better results in the first 6 years of schooling. Teachers are also required to study and obtain a Certificate in Secondary English Language Teaching (CiSELT) in-order to strengthen English Language teaching in the senior phase.

Many research reports such as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) either implicitly or explicitly speak to the need to strengthen the language of teaching in order to improve learning outcomes. As English is the main language in which exams are being delivered, specific need arises to strengthen the learners’ capacity in English. In order to be successful in delivering English First Additional Language as a language of learning and teaching the following steps have been taken:

·         Strengthen of the Department of Basic Education's Framework on English First Additional Language and

·         Improve teacher capacity and practices in the teaching of English First Additional Language as a subject; and

·         Focus on the use of English as medium of instruction.

All the steps aim to help learners to understand, analyse and respond to challenging texts that they find in content subjects. In addition academic literacy habits and skills are being developed in order to prepare these learners for the future.


The assessment of South African learners’ literacy and numeracy capabilities has been a key priority of the basic education sector. The diagnostic analysis of the Annual National Assessments (ANA) for Grades 1 to 6 and Grade 9 has been used to inform and accelerate the language and reading interventions for Grades R-9.

Subsequently in May 2014 Reading Promotion and Library and Information Services was declared a Ministerial fast track programme and priority has been given to the following initiatives namely:

·         Provisioning of mobile libraries in secondary schools and classroom libraries in primary schools;

·         Launching of Book Flood campaigns;

·         Provisioning of Grade 4 English reading story books;

·         Development of reading norms;

·         Implementation of a National Reading Assessment;

·         Resuscitation of Drop All and Read ;

·         Promotion of reading across the curriculum in content subjects;

·         Promotion of African languages; and the

·         Development of a DBE reading series

Library provisioning

The Department of Basic Education has identified two models that will enhance access to and provisioning of library and Information services namely:

·         Provisioning of mobile libraries (trolley libraries) for secondary schools; and

·         The provisioning of classroom libraries (classroom corner) for primary schools.

The Department has engaged in consultations with the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) to make public libraries more accessible to schools. The DBE-DAC collaboration is also geared towards supporting library provisioning and access in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo which both have more than half of their primary school learners in schools that have no access to libraries.


Reading Norms

In order to assess the level of reading fluency of their learners, teachers need a curriculum-based measurement, a set of standardised and well-researched procedures for assessing and monitoring their learners’ reading proficiency and progress (Hasbrouck & Tindal, 2006). The use of norms in reading assessments enables the teacher to make the following didactic interventions:

·         Identify the likelihood of the  need for extra or alternative forms of reading instruction;

·         Estimate rates of reading improvement,

·         Identify learners who are not demonstrating adequate progress and may require additional or different forms of instruction, and evaluate the effectiveness of different forms of instruction for struggling readers and provide direction for developing more effective instructional programs for those challenged learners.

Reading norms have been developed for Grades R-12, which are aligned to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS).

The National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) Grade 5 report (2013) recommends that the average reader should be reading independently by the end of Grade 3, at a speed of around 70 Words Correct Per Minute (WCPM). In the Intermediate Phase learners should read increasingly sophisticated literature in different genres three or four times a week. This requires that teachers pay attention to each learner, assessing reading throughout the year and giving particular attention to those experiencing difficulties.

Implementation of Drop All Read

The Department is advocating the resuscitation of Drop All and Read by encouraging schools to set aside a dedicated period (20-30 minutes) at least once week to encourage the entire school population (teachers, learners and support staff) to engage in a variety of reading activities that is befitting to each school’s context and needs.

Reading across the Curriculum

The Department has implemented a strategy to promote reading across the curriculum in content subjects. Hence, teachers of all subjects in all grades are encouraged to include a dedicated reading activity in their lessons (experiments, word problems, directions, graphs etc.)

Strengthened District Support

In 2014 the Department’s Senior Management – led by the Minister – strengthened its support to District Directors and their staff to not only understand the key system priorities and interventions but to own them and lead the implementation of these programmes in their schools. Given the size of the schooling system it became clear that without ownership and leadership at this level of the system the targets set would be meaningless and probably unachievable.

Teacher development

Teacher development is one of the major focus areas in this current term of office. This will include various policy reviews including conditions of service, teacher recruitment, deployment, utilisation and development including a sustained focus on teachers’ professional development.

To demonstrate our seriousness in the premium we place on teachers, the Mangaung conference of the ANC resolved that we should establish a Presidential Commission to review the remuneration and conditions of employment of education and health professionals. Speaking at the 2014 SADTU’s 8th National Congress President Jacob Zuma announced that such a commission has indeed been established and is headed by former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo.

All of us involved in this sector know very well that in order for us to improve the quality of our education – classroom teaching must improve so that learners can receive quality knowledge at the requisite level. Equally, in-order to effectively deliver the curriculum it is crucial that we have the correct teacher, teaching the correct subject, in front of the class.

To achieve this we have launched various initiatives including 131 fully functioning Teacher Training Centres (including 40 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) enabled Centres supported by our generous partner Vodacom). We firmly hold a view that the classroom is a centre piece of learning and teaching. And, at the core of this learning and teaching is a competent and confident teacher. We note with appreciation that all Teacher Unions have also launched their own Teacher Development Institutes. These Institutes are owned by Teacher Unions but receive substantial monetary and non-monetary support from the Basic Education Department. Teacher development is one area where both Teacher Unions and the Department sing from the same hymn-book. 

System-Wide Accountability

None of these interventions will succeed without proper management and accountability across the system. Hence, we have undertaken a massive task of developing binding Performance Agreements and work plans that officials throughout the system will sign for the 2015/2016 academic year. Work is already under way to determine Key Performance Indicators for District Directors, Circuit Managers, Curriculum Advisors which are aligned to learner performance particularly in ANA and the National Senior Certificate. Key Performance Indicators are linked to, amongst others, learner progression. These indicators will be enforced both at provincial and national levels.


Fellow South Africans allow me to once again thank our hard working teachers whom we strongly believe are the backbone of our system. We also thank parents, education stakeholders, sponsors and partners, indeed our collective actions are Taking South Africa Forward.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 1/11/2016
Number of Views: 4162

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