I am pleased to announce the start of the annual Literacy and Numeracy testing in the Western Cape.
The Western Cape is the only province in the country to conduct standardised testing of this nature.
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 assessment so that we can improve literacy and numeracy performance.
The tests allow the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to identify schools and areas where literacy and numeracy performance is weak, strong and average and to determine what kind of remedial action is required.
This year over 250 000 Grade three, six and nine learners from Public Ordinary and Independent schools will be taking part in these tests from the 10 to 23 October.
83 030 Grade 3 learners, 79 301 Grade 6 learners and 89 674 Grade 9 learners from 1 421 schools will be writing in 2012.
We are very excited that 5 927 learners from 100 independent schools are also participating in the tests. Independent schools were first invited to participate in the Grade 6 and 9 testing in 2010, and Grade 3 testing in 2011. The number of independent schools writing has therefore increased from 41 in 2010 to 77 in 2011 and 100 in 2012.
1 128 test administrators including supervisors have been recruited, trained and allocated to schools to oversee the process.
The systemic tests are administered by outside service providers, which guarantees the independence of the tests and improves their credibility.
Last year, the WCED approached an autonomous research unit, The Centre for Evaluation and Assessment (CEA), to update and evaluate the existing testing instruments to ensure that they remain relevant, credible and in line with the curriculum and the changing school system.
They identified various areas that needed to be expanded or improved upon in order to ensure that the tests instruments are in line with international standards.
This year we will be able to compare and contrast the results of all the tests with those of last year when we interpret and analyse the results.
While educators at schools do not get to see the individual papers, they are given a descriptive analysis of their results so that they know where weaknesses lie, as well as exemplars to use as a benchmark during the next school year.
Principals are also briefed on the results and targeted assistance and support is offered to schools that have not shown improvement. Community meetings are also held to inform parents about how they can help improve the literacy and numeracy skills of their children.
This strategy is proving to be successful, especially in the field of numeracy. For example, in 2008, numeracy performance in Grade three was 35% compared to 47.6% in 2011. Similarly, the results in Grade six saw increases from 17.4% in 2009 to 23.4% in 2011.
However, the levels of literacy at the Grade 3, 6 and 9 level are still, as reflected in earlier tests, in our opinion, at unacceptable levels.
While we have seen marked improvements compared to the results of previous years, it is still clear that we have a long way to go before we reach the levels we aspire to.
But on the basis of last year’s testing and support to schools we are hopeful that many of our interventions will result in improved literacy and numeracy performance in 2012.