Black pupils getting raw deal in high school grades

Grade progression [passing] was poorly linked to actual ability and learning among black high school pupils, research has found.

Grade progression [passing] was poorly linked to actual ability and learning among black high school pupils, research has found.

Economic Research Southern Africa (Ersa) said yesterday that the findings were consistent with warnings from experts that progress on enrolment and budget allocations had not translated into equalised education outcomes across all races. A paper published under Ersa's auspices found evidence of "significant racial differences" in secondary school grade progression. This was from data collected from the Cape Town region which followed the progress of more than 4700 pupils between 2002 and 2005.

The findings show that baseline literacy and numeracy tests conducted at the beginning of the survey was a predictor of progress among so-called "coloured" and white pupils from Grades eight to 11.

"By contrast, African pupils' high school progress up to Grade 11 bore notably less relation to their score on this initial test.

"However when they write the nationally standardised and externally evaluated matric examination their scores on the baseline test become a good predictor of the likelihood of passing the matric exam as they are for white and coloured pupils," said Esra.

Ersa said the findings showed a "serious" weakness in the ability of black schools to evaluate student ability and learning adequately. It said that pupils' movement from grade to grade varied by race.

"White students advanced by almost one grade per year; coloured students lagged behind whites and were about half a grade behind by the age of 14.

"Black pupils started school later and advanced more slowly. At the age of 14 they were two grades behind white pupils".

The study found girls advanced quicker from grade to grade than boys regardless of race. Part of the explanation for the racial difference was based on pupils' home conditions including differences in income between black and white households. Parents of black pupils were also found to have about five years less schooling than white parents.

Negative effects on pupils as a result of weak management and teaching environments had received less education policy attention. - Sapa

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