ONLY half of the Grade 1 pupils in the Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage districts passed in 2010, according to shocking figures released by the Eastern Cape Education Department.

Port Elizabeth recorded a 50.4% pass rate and Uitenhage 50.6%, while the figures for grades 2 to 11 reflected equally dismal results.

Education experts have warned the future looks bleak for young children because the “system is failing (them)”.

The pass rate for Grade 7 – the stepping stone to high school – in the PE district was 51.4% in 2010. The overall pass rate in the province in the grade dropped by three percentage points to 83.9% last year.

Of the 12 299 Grade 1 pupils assessed in the PE district, only 6 202 progressed to Grade 2. The PE district department failed to submit the information of 60 schools in the area to the provincial Department of Education at the end of last year. There are 312 schools in the PE district, which stretches all the way to Alexandria. Other PE district results:

Grade 2 – only 49.3% of the 9 408 pupils assessed passed last year;

Grade 3 – 51% of the 9 135 pupils assessed passed;

Grade 4 – of the 9 003 pupils assessed, only 50.1% passed;

Grade 5 – 49% of the 8 995 assessed pupils passed;

Grade 6 – 51.6% of the 9 089 pupils assessed progressed to Grade 7;

Grade 7 – there was a pass rate of 51.4% from the 9 391 pupils assessed;

Grade 8 – only 49.8% of the 8 609 pupils assessed passed;

Grade 9 – a low 44.9% of the 8 182 pupils assessed in the district passed;

Grade 10 – 47.3% of the 8 476 pupils assessed passed; and

Grade 11 – 48.4% of the 6 996 pupils assessed passed.

Education professor Susan van Rensburg said: “There are many reasons for such a bad pass rate. There’s the problem of school readiness, which means things did not go well in the reception year, Grade R. Some of the children come from child-headed households and deep poverty. This is not only an education problem, but a great social problem which needs to be dealt with hand in hand.

“The school curriculum needs to be reviewed and aligned with that of a Third World country, not a First World country. The problem with South Africa is that we want to pretend to the world that we can attain First World standards, but that system is failing the children because we cannot get them to pass.”

Van Rensburg said there was a “massive” problem with school dropouts in grades 1 to 11 and it stemmed from the foundation phase – Grades 1 to 3.

“South Africa has a bad track record of teachers not pulling their weight or losing morale along the way. The curriculum is also too advanced for children in the lower grades because of their social and environmental problems.

“We need to fit the curriculum to the nation, not fit the nation to the curriculum. Government must find a sustainable solution, not this high-falutin stuff from America that does not work.”

Education and child psychologist Dr Dolf Müller said school readiness was a big factor that contributed to the poor pass rate. “The grades are becoming more and more difficult with the result that the children are forced to attend school before they are ready for Grade 1. Pre-primary should be like a little Grade 1 and reading, writing and maths should be more pronounced in Grade R.

“There are so many young children who don’t attend Grade R and go straight to Grade 1 because of their age. Repeating Grade 1 is a bad way to start out and it does affect the children as they grow older.”

Müller said general support from parents was lacking in the household.

A comparison of the 2009 and 2010 results of grades 1 to 11 in the three main clusters, or regions, shows a sharp drop in the pass rate of all the clusters.

In cluster C – which is the Port Elizabeth to East London cluster – the pass rate declined from 86.3% in 2009 to 77.8% in 2010, a 8.5% decrease.

In cluster B – the East London to Mthatha area – there was a 8.9% drop; the pass rate was 85.5% in 2009 and 76.6% in 2010.

Cluster A – which is the poorer rural areas – showed a drop of 9.5%. In 2009, the overall pass rate was 87.4% and 77.9% last year.

DA education spokesman and MPL Edmund van Vuuren said the PE district was “a shame to the province and the other 23 districts”.

“Although there has been a decline in the results of all three clusters, we have never had such bad results in the PE district as we had in 2010.

“Overcrowding of classrooms and multi-grade teaching are major factors contributing to the poor pass rate in lower grades. Due to infrastructure problems, a number of schools place pupils from grades 1 to 3 in the same classroom. Therefore there is no individual attention.

“At most schools there is no control system in place where educators outline what they are going to be teaching for the year. The problem is that principals and department officials are not allowed to do class visitations to see what is being taught because the unions are preventing them from doing so.”

Van Vuuren said the fact the PE district did not submit the necessary information of 60 schools in the area displayed the “inefficiency” of the district.

Provincial Education

Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said it was too early to comment on the results. “We first need to do a comprehensive assessment of the results. My thinking is by the time we went to press with the results, some of the information must have been omitted. We’ll first analyse the results and determine the impact and way forward. Once we’ve done that we will decide on the steps to take to remedy the situation.

“The PE district’s results have been declining despite all the infrastructure in place. There are a lot of poor areas around PE and there’s a lot of vandalism that takes place in some schools. The PE area is a matter of concern for the department,” Pulumani said.

Helenvale Primary School’s deputy principal Malcolm Roberts said about 32 of their Grade 1 pupils failed last year.

“We have about 122 Grade 1 pupils and about 90 passed, which is still a cause for concern. Most of those children who failed did not do Grade R – they jumped straight in to Grade 1.

“There’s also very little parental support and socio-economic problems. A lot of the parents are illiterate so they can’t assist the children with reading and spelling. We really need to put our heads together to resolve this issue,” said Roberts.

Clinton Saddler, principal of Parsons Hill Primary, said only three Grade 1 pupils out of more than 100 were kept back.

“Teachers are an important component and our motto is that you must have realistic expectations from the kids; the child must be legitimately ready for school to move forward.

“We have teachers giving extra lessons and some extra maths lessons; we try to catch them early before any problems start. There’s also a psychologist that comes in to help us with identifying any possible problems with the kids.” Poor pass rate indicative of more serious problems.

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