Thursday, October 23, 2014

“No pressure,” my beep

Schools opened in early January this year but messages of support are only flooding in now on radio and print, and we seem to be only concentrating on grade 12 pupils, at what seems to be the eleventh hour. What does this say to us and what effect does it have on the pupils themselves?

I was a matric student in grade 12 and for the most of us, there is nothing more difficult. We used to be told that grade 11 was the toughest grade and this resulted in the grade being called matric 1 and grade 12 downgraded to matric 2.0. One does not understand the 'truth' behind the statement until one is overcome by the fear of receiving one's report card on D-day only to wait six hours and remain the last class in the whole school to get their results and fail..

Yup, I failed grade 11 with a mathematics mark of a staggering 18% but instead of being sent back to matric 1, I got parole in the form of "condoned" (the grey area between "pass" and "fail" and the epitome of the standard of education in South Africa). Anyway, I got away with murder and "snuck into" matric 2 on the basis that I was disadvantaged by the teachers strike of 2007 that lasted six weeks.

I seriously sucked at math and no amount of last minute catch-up programme would have likely saved my ass. Over the years, I have noticed how the focus of matric 2 has intensified and wondered if this is a good thing. First of all, I found that the standard of grade 12 has "changed", and not for the good, I think.

While I was terrible at math, I was not so bad at science and I usually enjoyed going retro on the science books I read. I noticed during one visit at the local library that the biology (life sciences) textbook prescribed for grade 12 had the about the same content as an older (by give-or-take 5 years?) prescribed for grade 10!

If you go look at the books for other subjects you will also notice this trend. It seems that in an effort to increase the "pass rate" in grade 12, the government has not only turned "30%" to a pass but they have made things "easier" for matrics. That sounds like a conspiracy theory, I know, but if I am somehow "neutralised" in the near future, please lookout for chalk marks and leather-jacket residue at the scene of the crime, #justSaying.

What I have noticed in my township are the highschools’ obsessive attempts at getting 100% pass-rates. My problem is that extra classes are now being conducted all of a sudden where pupils are made to attend "extra classes" on top of the two extra hours added to the school day. These extra classes suddenly spur just a few weeks before the final exams.

Are highschool principals suddenly shocked by the advent of The Final Exams, jolting them into rapid action to "catch-up"? Why are we having Saturday classes only now as opposed to the eight months of school? Did we not know the exams were coming?

Being a part-time tutor for highschools students, I am very familiar with the frustration of grade 12 students scrambling for revisions and a plethora of "extra classes" they are being forced to attend. In my own experience, many teachers are lazy to keep up with the (now reduced) science and math syllabi and these extra classes seem to be eleventh hour efforts at covering for this.

The pupils are the victims, right? No, some are just as lazy (I've been a super lazy scholar myself, so I know). I have noticed how some pupils have questions that should have been answered by teachers, questions that leave me asking "what have they been teaching you the whole year?" and "what have you been doing in class while the teacher was teaching you?".

It looks all -doom-and-gloom right now and I am yapping about a problem I have not put forward a solution to try fix. Right now, I do not know, perhaps the reader may have a few pointers. Right now, I really hate seeing my sister having to make arrangements to find accommodation by her school because they decided the grade 12 learners need to have extra classes from 4pm to 7pm just two weeks before the beginning of the final exams.

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