Tomorrow, the first of 1 522 public and independent schools in the Western Cape will write the 2013 WCED Systemic Language and Mathematics tests Grade 3, 6 and 9.
We firmly believe in the importance of the systemic testing in the management of education and the improvement of learner outcomes as these tests provide valuable diagnostic information for improving language and mathematics performance.
Testing will take place between the 9th and the 23rd of October. A total of 245 285 learners from 1 422 Public Ordinary schools will be tested, as well as, 6 133 learners from 98 Independent schools.
The breakdown in grades is as follows:
- Grade 3 – 97 375
- Grade 6 – 78 723
- Grade 9 – 85 320
This year, we hope to improve on the results we achieved in 2012.
We were delighted that the 2012 language and mathematics results produced improved outcomes in all grades, subjects and districts tested.
However, while the improvements were pleasing, they also highlighted the fact that there is much work to be done before our learners across the board demonstrate acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy as benchmarked internationally.
That is why these tests are so important to us. Without the use of credible systemic testing of learner outcomes the WCED would not be in possession of the data upon which to develop its Literacy and Numeracy Intervention.
The importance of these tests was highlighted in a national report by the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, released late last year, entitled The State of Literacy Teaching and Learning in the Foundation Phase.
The report recognises the importance of systemic testing of learners in the improvement of language and mathematics outcomes. The Western Cape is the only Province to conduct systemic testing of this nature.
Too often systemic testing of this kind is seen merely as a means of obtaining data to be used in planning and setting benchmarks.
However, it is useful also to consider the extent to which there are broader professional benefits from the implementation of the sort of systemic testing which we use in this Province.
Some of these broader benefits are as follows:
- 1. Deepening Accountability
- Both the testing and the public releasing of the results have broadened and deepened accountability in our school system. No longer does society have to wait for the results of the external Grade 12 – the National Senior Certificate or Matric – examination to gauge the effectiveness of the system.
- The testing provides an earlier indication in our Primary schools as well as a more regular indicator at key stages of our schooling system. Constructively used this is invaluable information.
- 2. Powerful teacher development tool
- The various processes associated with the testing make up a powerful and cost effective teacher development tool. Exemplars are supplied from which teachers are able to determine appropriate standards and learn more about the nature and levels of questions.
- Feedback indicates that this is producing a more confident and knowledgeable teaching corps in this province.
- 3. Confirmed the importance of textbooks and readers
- The proper analysis of the test results also confirmed the importance of the provision of textbooks and readers. This province has as a result committed massive resources to ensuring that these are provided.
- 4. Better analysis of learners language and mathematics skills
- The format of the presentation of the results provides each school with a wealth of information about outcomes in other schools per circuit, district and the province which further encourages and strengthens realistic and appropriate school achievement.
- In addition, the tests scores are analysed for each school in terms of the actual component skills activities involved in the successful mastery of literacy and numeracy. So, for instance, the school will know how well in Grade 6 mathematics each of the following aspects is being taught and understood:
- Numbers, operations and relationships
- Patterns, functions and algebra
- Space and shape
- Data handling
There can be no doubt that the intelligent use of systemic testing by the WCED and by our schools can play a significant part in broadening the professional authority of the system.
District officials, Principals, teachers and members of the public are therefore better informed and equipped to play their appropriate role in teaching, assisting and supporting our young learners to achieve better results.
I would like to wish all our learners, educators and schools the best of luck in these tests and we look forward to the release of these results early next year.