Education focus: the ANAs and benefits for learners and educators

The National Senior Certificate Examinations (Matric Exams) season has got off to a start today in the context of the country's biggest teacher union SADTU coming out against an assessment system said to benefit them and learners alike.

Redi Tlhabi read an excerpt from a City Press column recently written by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, addressing SADTU's resistance:

Let us all remind SADTU that while it is an important stakeholder, it is not the government. It is the government of the day, elected by the people, that must drive improvements in the basic education sector for the benefit of future generations. Teacher accountability, diagnostic tools such as ANA and being at school on time is non-negotiable.

The assessment tool in question and under the spotlight is the Annual National Assessment - the ANAs. Motshekga shed further light on the ANAs:

The ANAs not only assess the child, but also the school and let us know where to give direct support, identifying different forms of support. The sector is huge: there are more than 27 000 schools, so it helps to identify needs. Teachers also need to sit with results and see that if there’s extreme low performance at 20%, it’s deeper than learners, it can’t be that all your learners can’t read and write. Is it a question of leadership or of methodology or of the impacts of other social factors like as poverty? In some cases, it’s also beyond the teacher, it’s the methodology that’s being used by a specific teacher. What some schools and some principals have done is look at the results and say ‘Teacher So-and-So when it come to handwriting is doing well, so let’s get that teacher to work with other teachers’, so that you have group teaching within the schools. We also use the ANA for school improvement plans, addressing things such a 20% pass rate. To develop the ANAs tools, we had to use local experts at universities and use international benchmarking. It is a reliable tool that’s been developed by skilled professionals .

Addressing SADTU's concerns regarding the ANAs, Motshekga further reiterated:

We don’t differ that much with SADTU, we’ve done the assessments for the past three years and we have a sense of what the challenges are in terms of the competencies of our learners generally within the system, the weaknesses teacher-by-teacher and the next level of debate is whether – following benchmarking the information and data – if we need to monitor it annually or in phases where we assess at every exit point, at Grade 3, Grade 6, Grade 9 and in Grade 12? Let’s allow at least two or three more years to see if our interventions are working. This would be a diagnostic tool for a system as fragile as ours.

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