South Africans expressed collective shock at yesterday’s announcement that the Department of Basic Education will allow pupils in grades seven to nine , to pass to the next grade even if they score just 20% in maths.

The department has today confirmed this report, even revealing that it was made “urgently” “within the limited time available”.

In a circular distributed to teachers recently, it was announced that students in the aforementioned grades who pass two languages, but fail maths, should be condoned to the next grade.

Previously, learners had to get 40% in maths and pass two languages, one of which is the Home Language.

The decision to lower the mark requirement was made following reports of concern from school principals and provincial officials across the country alerting the department of the extremely poor performance of Senior Phase learners who were failing to achieve 40%.

“It should be noted that the decision to apply a condonation dispensation in view of the stringent pass requirements, was an administrative decision that had to be made within the limited time available,” the department said in a statement.

The decision has been noted as an interim one for this year only, meaning it is already in effect for learners after schools issued end-of-year reports yesterday.

The department explained that the circular does not undermine the policy intention of the CAPS school curriculum on raising the bar in terms of promotion requirements by having taken the bold step of making mathematics a compulsory promotion requirement. Nor, does it limit efforts to improve mathematics attainment.

“However, in raising standards there is a need for a gradual transition from the current to the higher envisaged standards hence this policy review that is underway and this interim condonation dispensation,” it said.

[Image – CC Steven S]