‘Maths is hard’ – Some Western Cape schools phase out maths as students pull out

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Cape Town – Due to a low uptake by students, some Western Cape schools have phased out maths and physical science.

Responses from Education MEC David Maynier to questions posed by the ANC’s Education spokesperson in the legislature Khalid Sayed, also found that some schools were challenged with acquiring qualified maths and physical science teachers.

Maynier said in Grades 10-12, maths instruction nationally was in English or Afrikaans, and therefore not all students are receiving maths instruction in their home language.

The maths examination paper could only be written in English or Afrikaans.

This year alone, 556 Grade 10 learners, 5 601 Grade 11 learners, and 3 373 Grade 12 learners switched from maths to mathematical literacy.

Maynier said the Covid-19 pandemic had contributed to this.

“The rotational timetabling and the loss in teaching time and curriculum coverage contributed to learners changing from maths to mathematical literacy to boost their total scores and to be able to access higher education institutions.”

Over the period of 2014 – 2022, 26 schools phased out maths and 23 schools phased out physical sciences.

The department launched its Mathematics Strengthening Strategy: 2022-2027 in April to enhance performance and participation in maths, Maynier said.

Sayed said this was a cause for serious concern and urged the department to make provision for tutors to assist schools and encourage learner uptake for these subjects.

“We will definitely take it up with the authorities both in the province and at national.

“But more concerning is the number of learners that have changed from maths to maths literacy.

“Thousands of learners have been allowed and/or encouraged to make this switch.

“It may be beneficial to many schools as it improves the pass rate, especially in matric.

“But is it beneficial for the learner?

“That is the question we need to ponder upon.”

Foundation for Education and Social Justice Africa (FESJA) deputy chairperson Hendrick Makaneta said this was not surprising as South Africa was under-performing in the fields of maths and science.

“The long-term effect of the phasing out of these gateway subjects is that the country will not be in a position to produce local data scientists and other key specialists that are in demand in the mainstream economy.” – Cape Argus


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