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Basic Education defends decision on 20 percent pass mark

The department says the decision corrects a policy error, that was stopping talented children from being promoted.

Classroom. Picture: stock.xchng.

JOHANNESBURG – The Basic Education Department has defended its decision to approve a 20% pass mark for grade 7 to 9 pupils for mathematics, saying it will correct a policy error.

The department’s Director General Matanzima Mweli says they picked up the error during the visits of the minister to all the nine provinces.

"Principals and teachers told us that the rationale of insisting that a precondition for a learner to pass should be to get mathematics 40%, when majority of learners won’t do mathematics in grade 10, is not working,” he said.

A pupil who has passed all their subjects with the exception of mathematics will now be promoted to the next grade if they obtain a mark of 20% in the subject.

The department says pupils in these grades could decide not to take mathematics from grade 10 and to pursue careers that do not require the subject.

Western Cape Education head Brian Schreuder said the Department of Basic Education found the requirement prevents learners who excel in other areas from advancing to the next grade.

“There are learners who are passing all their subjects, six of their seven subjects but failing mathematics. And as a consequence, particularly in grade 9, they fail their standard because mathematics has now become a compulsory pass subject.”

Schreuder said it’s only those learners who would benefits from this lowered requirement.

“For those learners who pass everything except mathematics, the mathematics can be condoned so that they can continue into the FET or grade 10 but not be permitted to take mathematics as a subject unless they take mathematics literacy.”

He did, however, add the Western Cape Department feels 20% is too low and plans to engage with the Department of Basic Education on the matter in 2017.