South African teachers fail simple maths and English tests

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The Sunday Times has reported on how local teachers cannot pass basic maths and English tests.

According to the report, the majority of teachers who took part in a sample survey on the national school curriculum “were unable to identify the main idea in a paragraph, or do a simple maths calculation”.

The tests were on English first additional language and maths, and were part of a study by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.

They were designed to assess the teaching of the CAPS syllabus, stated the report, and involved 24 of the poorest schools across several provinces.

The Sunday Times said the following findings were observed:

  • 5 of 22 primary school teachers were able to identify the main idea in a simple paragraph.
  • 6 of 22 were able to do a simple calculation in maths.
  • Teachers scored as low as 10% for English first additional language and 5% for maths.


The teachers’ lack of ability was not the only issue raised – the report stated that classes at schools were also frequently disrupted.

This was often caused by union meetings, memorial services, and choir competitions.

“At least 18% of teachers were not in class during the days when schools were visited by two researchers,” stated the report.

Education expert Jaco Deacon said the problem was due to poor leadership at schools.

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