Scary truths about maths marks at South African schools – insider expert

Scary truths about maths marks at South African schools – insider expert, by Sara Muller.

Starting now, South Africa’s pupils will be able to obtain as little as 20% in mathematics in Grades 7, 8 and 9 and still progress to the next year of learning. This has been touted by many as evidence of an alleged inexorable decline in educational standards. …

To understand why, one must consider the confluence of a number of factors, including: the over-inflated importance of mathematics; a curriculum packed too full to allow for any slip-ups or slower learning rates, and the country’s struggling maths teachers. Maths performance correlates directly with poverty factors, meaning these challenges affect more than 75% of South Africa’s schools. …

In the past 20 years there’s been a major shift internationally towards thinking of education in purely economic terms (as opposed to critical citizenry, creativity or self-actualization). This reduction of education to purely economic ends, coupled with the conflation between mathematical prowess and problem-solving skills for the “knowledge economy”, has resulted in mathematics being isolated as “essential knowledge”. Its proponents insist that maths is required for an education of value.

To fully appreciate this shift in thinking, South Africans need to suspend their collective amnesia: passing mathematics was not a requirement to move into Grade 10 a generation ago. And yet adults from this era are often economically productive, creative and academically accomplished. Many would publicly acknowledge their own struggles with numbers.

hat-tip Stephen Neil