2018 Systemic Test results show steady improvement since 2011

21 January 2019

Statement by Minister Debbie Schäfer, Minister of Education

The 2018 systemic test results have now been released to schools. I am pleased that, since 2011, when we increased the difficulty of these tests, there is a steady improvement.

The systemic tests in Language and Mathematics are conducted each year in Grades 3, 6 and 9. They are an important resource for the Western Cape Education Department as they determine the levels of our learners' language and mathematics abilities so that we can identify specific areas that need improvement and assist schools in improving their outcomes. They are also useful tools for schools and educators as they provide specific information on various learning areas.

The 2018 results

The 2018 results show a very pleasing, sustained improvement. The tests were originally introduced in 2001, however, in 2011, the WCED approached the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA) to update and evaluate the existing testing instruments to ensure that they remain relevant, credible and in line with the curriculum and the changing school system.

Therefore, existing results are compared to the baseline of 2011.

The results are as follows:

Mathematics:

The pass rate for Grade 3 Mathematics has improved from 47.2% in 2011 to 56.6% in 2018, an increase of 9.4%. (The percentage pass rate as indicated is based on a pass requirement of 50%.)

From the tests we were able to pick up that Grade 3 learners are struggling to identify patterns, functions and are struggling with algebra and data handling. We are therefore able to design interventions to assist the Grade 3 learners in these areas. Without the systemic tests we would not have been able to identify these weaknesses, which shows why they are so important.

The pass rate for Grade 6 Mathematics showed a sustained increase from 23.4% in 2011 to 42.4% in 2018. This is an increase of an impressive 19%. The grade 6 results indicate that learners are struggling mostly with identifying space and shapes.

The pass rate for Grade 9 Mathematics has improved from 10.4% in 2011 to 23% in 2018. Here we managed to identify that learners are struggling with data handling.

The improvement in maths is most pleasing, given its importance in so many of the skills we need in our country.

Language:

The language results are generally steady, with increases over the seven years, despite the introduction of more difficult texts, to align them with international benchmarks.

Grade 3 language results increased from 38.7% in 2011 to 45.4% in 2018, an increase of 6.7%.

We were able to identify that Grade 3 learners' writing skills have declined. Again, without the systemic tests we would not have been able to identify these weaknesses and address these issues in the foundation phase.

Grade 6 language results have shown an improvement from 40.9% in 2011 to 44% in 2018. In Grade 6, we identified that learners writing skills has significantly improved, but that learners are struggling with reasoning.

The Grade 9 language pass rate saw steady improvement from 48.9% in 2011 to 51.1% in 2018, an increase of 2.2%.

Here we identified significant improvements in the following areas:

  • Language Structure and Use
  • Thinking and reasoning
  • Writing

As a province we believe in the value of providing diagnostic assessment of the provincial education system so that we can improve the management of education and learner and teacher performance. We are the only Province in the country to conduct testing of this nature - which is independently set, administered and marked so as to ensure that the results are credible and in line with international standards. The service providers included the Universities of Pretoria and Cape Town.

I am pleased that the DBE has finally seen the value in systemic testing and we offer our support as they pilot the systemic tests in 20% of schools in each province.

The Systemic Tests provide the most objective picture possible of learner performance in language and Mathematics, giving us the opportunity to assess whether we are improving the quality of education in the province. We have used the systemic tests over the years to design our improvement strategies and specific interventions and training programmes for schools and teachers at the CTLI. This has led directly to some of the improvements that we see in the system.

Conclusion:

The WCED has provided reports to every participating school, which they can now use to inform their school improvement plans for 2019.

There is a lot that needs to be done to ensure that we further improve on these results this year, and it will involve all roleplayers for this to be achieved, including the participation of parents in encouraging their children to read, write and calculate every day.

This Government is committed to improving the language and mathematics levels of every learner, in every classroom and in every school.

If we achieve this objective, we will improve the quality of the whole system, improving learner performance and retention in all grades and ultimately better outcomes in the National Senior Certificate