Tag: Mathematics

ACDP: Make pure Mathematics a compulsory subject, not History

The ACDP notes the comments made by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, in response to a 156-page report from the History Ministerial Task Team.

The recommendation of the Ministerial Task Team is, among other things, to introduce History as a compulsory subject in grades 10, 11 and 12. While the ACDP agrees that History should, by design, enable learners to be active citizens – including being able to engage critically with the truths of colonialism, apartheid, and the liberation struggle, we do not agree with making History a compulsory subject in grades, 10, 11 and 12. Why?

Firstly, and most importantly, South Africa faces many challenges on the economic front, with high unemployment rates, increasing poverty and critical skill shortages. The disturbing literacy statistics, coming from the University of Pretoria and the ‘Progress in International Reading Literacy’ study, found that 80% of our Grade 4 pupils “still cannot read at an appropriate level.” It was also found that school maths and arithmetic performance in South Africa is as abysmal and lags behind the rest of the world. South Africa ranks 75th out of 76 countries in the OECD countries and is near the very bottom of many other international maths education rankings. As we surge ahead towards the 4th Industrial Revolution, for the ACDP, it is a no-brainer: make pure Mathematics a compulsory subject up to Grade 12; not History.

Secondly, while the Minister mentioned that, “This project is not a propaganda exercise destined to shore up and buttress support for the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the ANC”, one has to question whether this is believable. We need look no further than our northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, to see how History was used as a propaganda tool in the public school syllabus, skewed in favour of the ruling party, Zanu-PF. History may just repeat itself in South Africa.

Finally, it must be noted that the ACDP is not opposed to an Afrocentric approach to teaching History as a subject.  We do caution, however, against History being used as a propagation tool, and believe that 9 years of compulsory History teaching is sufficient time to achieve a desired empirical outcome. In order for South Africa to compete internationally, and lift ourselves out of the current economic stagnation, with all of its negative consequences, we should be paying more attention to the pure Sciences, which includes Mathematics, and not History.

5 June 2018

Television can pioneer innovative ways to address stereotypes and change attitudes towards maths and science

The ACDP believes that science, technology and innovation should play a crucial role in driving economic transformation and social upliftment in South Africa.

Raising awareness and increasing the quality of South Africa’s scholarly output in all fields of science, as well as promoting young scientists and women for science activities is a laudable aim, especially if we are to improve our global competitiveness in this area.

We also agree that if we are to see improved human capacity in this sector, the creation and continued growth of a pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in science, mathematics and engineering is crucial. This will not be possible as long as our education system fails to improve the quality of teaching in maths and science.

While it is encouraging to note that in the area of Higher Education and Training, the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report shows that South Africa has slightly improved its ranking for quality of maths and science education from the worst ranked in the world the previous year to 128th position, far more will need to be done to ensure that the level of maths and science education vastly improves.

Consider the example of Singapore, who, through a revised curriculum in the teaching methods of maths was able to change their world ranking for maths and science education from one of the lowest countries in the world, to one of the highest.

Singapore Maths is reputed to be one of the most successful national programmes in the world, according to the Trends in International Maths and Science Study survey (TIMSS), since 1995. The Singapore Maths curriculum and pedagogy is unique and revolutionary in its approach towards the subject, and we highly encourage the departments of Science and Technology and Basic Education to look into introducing a similar curriculum in our schools.

Naturally, teachers of these subjects must be qualified. It is unacceptable that so many of our children are being taught maths and science by teachers with little to no proper credentials.  It is also concerning that some schools reportedly omit teaching mathematics all together. The ACDP believes that maths and science should be compulsory subjects from primary school level if we are to address the skills shortages in our country.

The ACDP further believes that all media, whether radio, television, social platforms or print media should be used towards developing an interest in science, maths, technology and engineering. Statistics compiled by UNESCO reveal that globally, women make up less than 30% of people who are working within these fields.

Our country’s basic education system needs massive improvement when it comes to teaching maths and science so that they become attractive subject choices for more pupils. These important subjects should be taught in primary schools in ways that make them fun and engaging. Qualified teachers must aim to inculcate a love for maths and science among young learners, particularly among girl learners.

I believe the department of Science and Technology, in conjunction with the Department of Basic Education, can pioneer innovative ways to use television as an excellent medium to address stereotypes and change children’s negative attitudes towards maths and science in particular.

Rather than being bombarded with endless dancing programmes on television, young learners should also have access to programmes that show the value of science and innovative thinking, young women scientists and what they contribute to society, and who, in turn, might become role models to young girls who are aspiring to become scientists.

The ACDP will support this budget.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 30: Science and Technology
9 May 2018