repeating grades

Photo: Flickr / Abnat

Explained: The government’s plans to stop learners from repeating grades

The days of learners being held back in school could be numbered. However, some people aren’t happy with proposals to stop certain kids repeating grades.

repeating grades

Photo: Flickr / Abnat

A contentious issue has raised its head this week regarding the way South African children progress through our education system. One analyst has warned that proposals to prevent children from repeating grades at an early age will only act as a bandaid for “the real problems” facing schools in Mzansi.

Nikki Bush was speaking to Cape Talk on Thursday. The well-renowned parenting expert raised her concerns with something mentioned in the Basic Education Budget Vote Speech for the 2018/19 Financial Year, which was tabled last May. Bush noticed that Minister Angie Motshekga was looking to implement some radical changes.

Repeating grades: Who would be affected?

As well as vowing to overhaul the Early Education System and improve the quality of teaching in South Africa’s schools, she also mentioned the prospect of “scrapping” the option of repeating grades for younger children. Motshekga said she wants to banish the system for learners up to Grade 4, as repetition can have “a lifelong effect” on a pupil:

“A number of education experts have opined on this matter, and the overwhelming message is that it does not make any educational sense to make young children aged six to ten years repeat a grade.”

“According to the experts, the children who repeat, on the whole, gain absolutely nothing. On the contrary, for many affected children, repetition is a powerful early signal of failure – a signal that lasts through the individual’s life.”

Angie Motshekga

Criticism of education proposals

Bush simply doesn’t agree with this take: She suggests that these changes would have a serious impact on children and businesses, who are desperate for competence in literacy and numeracy from all potential future employees. The expert says education is “a journey, not a destination” – a philosophy which must be accepted for all ages.

Angie Motshekga has also hinted she could introduce a similar policy for Grades 9 – 11 in secondary schools. She pointed to the inefficiency of the current school system – as well as higher drop-out rates – as the reason to keep pushing learners forward even if they aren’t ready for the next phase of education.

The policy remains at the proposal stage, and it has a long way to go before it could be signed into law. Yet concerned parents and activists are registering their complaints as early as possible, as they feel any move such as this would negatively impact schoolchildren during their development.