2019 Systemic Test results show Western Cape Education strategies are working
I am pleased to have received the results of our 2019 Systemic Tests, which show that our provincial education system continues in general to improve year-on-year, despite immense challenges.
The WCED is the only provincial education department to conduct its own systemic testing in Mathematics and Language. These subjects develop fundamental skills that unlock learning potential across all other subjects. This is why the Western Cape Government has made early numeracy and literacy a key priority to ensure that learners have the best foundation possible for their school career.
The tests were originally introduced in 2001, but were updated in 2011 with the help of the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA). The tests are internationally benchmarked and administered, marked and moderated externally to ensure objectivity and to provide a credible and relevant benchmark for evaluation.
All existing results are compared to the 2011 baseline results. The pass rate is based on the 50% mark.
These tests allow the provincial Department to identify specific areas where work is needed to improve our learner’s abilities in these key subjects. The Department’s targeted efforts to improve these scores in earlier grades will ultimately achieve better pass rates throughout the education system, and in the national senior certificate exams.
The pass rate for Grade 3 Mathematics increased by 1.5 percentage points from 56.6% in 2018 to 58.1% in 2019, bringing the total improvement since 2011 to 10.9 percentage points. Grade 3 learners showed particular improvement in the areas of patterns, algebra and functions, but the tests identified measurement as an area that learners are struggling with at this Grade level.
The Grade 6 Mathematics pass rate increased by 2 percentage points from 42.4% in 2018 to 44.4% in 2019, with a total improvement of an outstanding 21 percentage points since 2011. Learners showed great improvement in patterns, functions and algebra, and space and shapes. However, more work is needed to improve their scores in numbers, operations and relationships, as well as with measurement.
In Grade 9, the pass rate decreased fractionally (by 0.3 percentage points) from 23.0% in 2018 to 22.7% in 2019. However, this is more than double the pass rate of 2011, showing remarkable improvement over time. Here too, numbers operations and relationships, and measurement, need attention as learning areas, while learners increased their scores significantly in patterns, functions and algebra, and data handling.
The importance of Mathematics cannot be overstated in our country, as our need for these skills will only increase as we embrace the future economy.
Similarly, Language is a fundamental pillar of learning that must be developed early on – without good language skills, learners will struggle to master other subjects.
Our Grade 3 Language results experienced a slight decrease of 0.9 percentage points from 45.8% in 2018 to 44.9% in 2019. However, this is still 14.5 percentage points higher than the 2011 rate. Writing is a challenge for learners in this grade, but they performed extremely well on language structure and use. Reading for meaning or with comprehension remains a focus of our development and support efforts in this phase.
In Grade 6, the pass rate increased by an impressive 4.3 percentage points from 38.5% in 2018 to 42.8% in 2019, constituting an 11.3 percentage point increase since 2011. Grade 6 learners are performing better in reading and viewing, but need attention in writing.
Grade 9 learners have seen significant improvement in their writing scores, but need further support in the language structure and use learning area. Their pass rate increased by 1 percentage point from 52.6% in 2018, to 53.6% in 2019 – this is a 9.4 percentage point increase on 2011 scores.
I would like to highlight some of the standout improvements in Quintile 1-3 results, which demonstrate that the Department’s efforts to close the inequality gap in education are bearing fruit.
In Quintile 1 schools, both Mathematics and Language results increased across all grades tested, a wonderful result for schools that face many challenges. In Mathematics, both Grade 3 and Grade 6 learners increased their pass rates by 3 percentage points or more between 2018 and 2019. The increase of 5.4 percentage points in the Grade 6 language pass rate between 2018 and 2019 is especially noteworthy.
In Quintile 2 schools, language pass rates for Grade 3 and 6 have more than doubled since 2011, and in Grade 9 a further 2.1 percentage point increase from 2018 to 2019 was achieved. Mathematics pass rates have also increased substantially since 2011, including a truly excellent 30.7 percentage point increase for Grade 6 learners.
Quintile 3 schools have worked hard to increase their pass rates for language in Grade 6 by 1.3 percentage points, and Grade 9 by 1.1 percentage points, from 2018 scores.
There is still much work to be done to support schools across all quintiles. The WCED remains committed to ensuring sustained improvement in these key subjects, for every learner, in every classroom, in every school in the province, despite the enormous challenges we are facing.
The great value of these tests is that they highlight problem areas before it is too late to address them. I hope that the national Department of Basic Education will succeed in implementing similar tests nationally soon, so that other provinces can also reap the benefit of such measurement.