South Africa's Department of Basic Education have issued a directive instructing all public schools to allow Grade 7 to 9 pupils who have got 20% for mathematics to be allowed to pass and be promoted to the next grade.
"The urgency of issuing the Circular", the statement by the department says, "arose from reports received from school principals and provincial officials across the country alerting the DBE of the extremely poor performance of Senior Phase learners due to the compulsory requirement of learners having to pass Mathematics at 40%."
As such, the department saw it fit to allow pupils to progress to the next Grade if they passed all other subjects, provided they got a minimum mark of 20% in mathematics, essentially a failing grade. This has raised a lot of concern among South Africans, with some highlighting that the country already lags behind many countries in STEM education, and that such a decision is likely to continue this trend.
"To start with, there is no such thing as a 20% pass mark for mathematics and there has been no change in the progression policy to reflect such."Angie Motshekga, Minister of South Africa's Department of Basic Education
Barely a few days after issuing this directive, the Minister of Basic Education has lambasted media and others stating that "there is no such thing as a 20% pass mark (for mathematics)."
"Not everyone is mathematically inclined", the Minister further said. "Some people are more inclined towards the arts, others are better with technical subjects making this policy unfair to those who are forced to take mathematics but are not good at it."
It comes as a surprise that the decision comes after pupils have written their exams suggesting that perhaps the department have visibility to statistics that show that a high number of Grade 7 to 9 pupils would have failed to advance to the next grade had the directive not been issued.
Perhaps the Department of Basic Education should consider addressing the real issue at earlier Grades to ensure that mathematics education is sound and prepares pupils for what the next grades require.