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What we’ve learnt

Learning gaps widen over time, from a four-year gap in Grade 9 to a six-year gap in Grade 12.

Without intervention, learning plateaus at Grade 6 level, creating a ceiling beyond which learners cannot advance.

Learners even in Grade 12 are missing even the most foundational understandings within Numbers and Fractions.

The background

Syafunda is an organisation that supports schools within the Kwa-zulu Natal province by providing educational hardware and software in support of teachers. As part of their project they wanted baseline assessments to measure their progress on an annual basis. Working with 23 schools in three different educational districts.

The assessments

Syafunda conducted assessments with a randomised sample choosing 25 learners from each grade in each school across Grade 8 to 12. These 2522 learners were assessed using Reflective Learning’s High School diagnostic assessment, translating results in an estimated grade-level of learner competency. The Grade 10 to 12 cohorts consisted solely of learners who chose core Mathematics.

Grade-level competency

It was not surprising that there were no Grade 8 and Grade 9 learners at Grade 9 level yet as the assessments occurred at the start of the year. However, the bulk of learners were functioning at the Grade 3 – 5 level (82% and 69% respectively) showing that the majority of learners had significant learning gaps. Grade 10 learners were split in half, with 51% at Grade 3-5 level with 48% at Grade 6-8 level. Only 2 of the 505 learners were at the required level. Grade 11 and 12 learners fared slightly better, but at most only 2% of learners were ready for FET phase Maths.

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Thread comparisons

The assessments showed each grade achieved best on the Numbers thread (46% to 60%) with Patterns and Algebra (14% to 31%) having the lowest achievement. Learners struggled with Fractions (17% to 34%) across the board also. There is an upwards trend in later grades across most threads, but this effect would be emphasised by stronger learners choosing core Maths. Interestingly, there is little difference across grades in the Problem-Solving thread. It is evident that the most foundational concepts are sorely lacking. Given the structure of Maths, gaps in these concepts are likely to have had an effect on the learner’s ability to learn later, more advanced topics.

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