The Department of Basic Education has cleared the air around what it calls inaccurate media reports on the decision to pass pupils who achieve 20% and above in their final maths mark.

Last week, the department announced it had in the interim amended the pass requirements for grades seven, eight and nine, to allow pupils who achieve 50% in at least one language subject to be promoted to the next grade even if they achieve below the 40% pass requirement for maths.

South Africans expressed shock at the news, questioning its viability.

“To start with, there is no such thing as a 20% pass mark for mathematics and there has been no change in the progression policy to reflect such,” the department said.

“In addition to passing your two language subjects you have to pass one of them i.e. home language at minimum 50% and you have to pass mathematics at minimum 40%.  In essence what the policy states is that even if you pass all of your other subjects with distinctions, but got less than 40% for mathematics you failed the year.”

“We are all aware that not everyone is mathematically inclined. Some people are more inclined towards the arts, others are better with technical subjects making this policy unfair to those who are forced to take mathematics but are not good at it.”

The department noted that the progression policy is being reviewed following concerns around its suitability that were raised with it by principals and provincial education departments and that while this review is taking place, a decision was taken to condone those who passed all the subjects this year, except that they did not meet the 40% criteria in maths to go the next grade.

‘The concern was that learners who could go to the next grade based on meeting all other pass criteria were being held back in the grade unnecessarily. It has been shown that grade repetition can lead to increased school drop out, increased truancy and a number of other adverse effects,” the department said.