Unions hail plan to lower pass marks

Teacher unions in the Eastern Cape have partially welcomed the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) proposals to lower pass marks and make maths optional in senior phases, writes Aretha Linden.

Teacher unions in the Eastern Cape have partially welcomed the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) proposals to lower pass marks and make maths optional in senior phases. Picture: FILE

The DBE plans to amend the pass requirements for pupils in Grades 7, 8 and 9, which could see mathematics removed as a compulsory pass requirement.

Another proposal is that the pass rate for home language is lowered to 40%.

The department said the proposals would align pass requirements with those of Grades 10 to 12.

DBE spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said when pass marks were introduced for Grades 10 to 12 in 2014, those of lower grades were not adjusted and this had an “adverse” effect on pupils.

“The new promotion requirements are not aligned with the National Senior Certificate promotion requirements, which is the national benchmark,” said Mhlanga.

The pass requirements for pupils in Grades 10 to 12 is currently 40% in three subjects, one of which is an official language at home language level and 30% in any three subjects.

In 2014, DBE raised the benchmark for senior phase pupils (Grades 7 to 9), so that instead of passing seven of nine subjects, they were expected to pass eight and the home language pass requirement was increased to 50%.

The department is now proposing that in order to pass Grades 7 to 9, pupils need to pass four subjects at 40%, one of which is a home language, and pass any other four subjects at 30%.

“The new promotion requirements are not aligned with the National Senior Certificate promotion requirements, which is the national benchmark,” said Mhlanga.

Maths will be removed as a compulsory promotion requirement.

South African Democratic Teachers Union provincial secretary, Chris Mdingi said the union was “humbled” by the proposal for home language as the current pass requirement was too “high”.

Mdingi said the union had its own reservations on the idea of maths being made optional.

“The world we live in is very technological, meaning maths is required.

“However, there are children who cannot do maths and we cannot frustrate them with maths,” said Mdingi.

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa’s provincial chief executive, Loyiso Mbinda, said the union’s view had always been that the pass requirement from Grade 7 to Grade 12 be the same.

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