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Maths teachers, pupils battle with curriculum

The country’s maths curriculum has come under fire in a report compiled by a top education expert.

Professor Werner Olivier, a member of the NGO South African Maths Foundation (SAMF) advisory committee, conducted the study of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) maths curriculum via a survey made up of a number of open-ended questions.

Questionnaires were distributed among over 100 maths teachers from across eight education districts in the province.

All respondents were from public schools, with the sample taken from a mixture of urban and rural schools.

Findings included:

  • About 50% were unable to complete the curriculum in 2013;
  • More than 90% spent more time in the classroom re-teaching and revising work than in previous years;
  • Roughly 45% of pupils said they could not cope academically with the CAPS maths curriculum;
  • Only 30% of pupils had access to extra learning material; and
  • Maths teachers said they faced numerous challenges in the classroom including poor pupil attitudes towards maths, poor pupil maths skills and lack of teaching resources.

“These are issues which existed before the introduction of CAPS but they are still issues which exist currently,” Olivier said.

“We are also anticipating other issues with CAPS to emerge with regard to the content offering.”

Olivier said a number of teachers had indicated that they were in dire need of further professional training in the areas of maths content and calculator training, among other things.

Education expert Dr Ken Alston said he was not surprised by the findings of the study.

“If the teachers are not up to scratch then you can’t expect anything better from the kids,” he said.

“Changing the curriculum is not an answer. If the fundamental issues are not dealt with then there’s no possibility to move forward.”

DA MPL Edmund van Vuuren said the biggest issue affecting the Eastern Cape was a critical maths teacher shortage. “There was supposed to be a maths and science teacher training centre opened in the province, built by the department, but that never materialised and as a result we have too few maths teachers,” he said.

Provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima referred all questions to the national Department of Basic Education (DBE).

DBE spokesman Elijah Mhlanga could not be reached for comment.

Olivier said there was an urgent need to implement support and professional skills development programmes for maths teachers. This was “to address some of the current CAPS mathematics curriculum implementation challenges in the classroom”. — zisandan@dispatch.co.za

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