Many SA mathematics teachers know less than 11-year-old kids

Research shows that 79% of grade 6 mathematics teachers do not understand what they are teaching

By - August 8, 2014
Education maths

Three out of four grade 6 mathematics teachers in South Africa’s public schools cannot do basic sums at a level of an 11-year-old, according to a new report.

Nic Spaull, an education researcher at Stellenbosch University, and Professor Hamsa Venkatakrishnan, the South African Numeracy chair at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), published a report based on data from the 2007 SACMEQ study.

Their research produced the following findings:

  • 17% of grade 6 students in South Africa were taught by maths teachers who had content knowledge below a grade 4 or 5 level
  • 62% of grade 6 students were taught by maths teachers who had a grade 4 or 5 level of content knowledge
  • 5% of grade 6 students were taught by maths teachers who had a grade 6 or 7 level of content knowledge
  • 16% of grade 6 students were taught by maths teachers who had at least a grade 8 or 9 level of content knowledge
  • As many as “79% of grade 6 mathematics teachers showed content knowledge levels” below the level at which they were employed to teach

The DA called on the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to develop and implement a truly effective turnaround strategy to address the current state of mathematics in the country.

However, the political party noted that the report concluded by saying “we would argue that raising student outcomes in mathematics remains a distant pipe dream in South Africa”.

Annette Lovemore, DA shadow minister of basic education, pointed to a plethora of reports on the state of education in South Africa.

Last week, a ministerial task team concluded that South Africa has one of the poorest-performing school education systems in the world.

The ministerial task team also submitted its 188-page report noting the quality of the National Senior Certificate in South Africa.

It recommended that the education department consider making mathematics a compulsory subject, while it also urged the department to increase the minimum pass rate, which currently stands at 30%.

The DA also recently found that as many as 327 South African schools are not offering mathematics at a Grade 12 level.

“The inequity within education is highlighted in the report. Almost half of the maths teachers in our most affluent schools were able to answer questions at Grade 8 and 9 level. In our poorer schools, only 10% of Grade 6 teachers could do so,” said Lovemore.

“The minister now owes the nation, and particularly every child taking Mathematics at any level in our schools, and every parent of those children, a clear plan of action. She has stated that she has appointed an internal task team to work on the problem. This is highly unlikely to be enough.”

More on mathematics education

Mathematics teachers fail matric exams

Truth about SA’s mathematics, science education quality

SA maths education not so bad: Minister Pandor

Zuma government’s education quality shocker

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