On 2 December 2016, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) released National Assessment Circular 03 of 2016, entitled, SPECIAL CONDONATION DISPENSATION FOR LEARNERS IN THE SENIOR PHASE (GRADES 7-9). The urgency of issuing the Circular arose from reports received from school principals and provincial officials across the country alerting the DBE of the extremely poor performance of Senior Phase learners due to the compulsory requirement of learners having to pass Mathematics at 40%.
The content of the Circular was foregrounded by a change in the promotion and progression requirements for the Senior Phase introduced in 2014 with the implementation of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). This change resulted in raising the pass requirement for Home Language to 50% and including Mathematics as a compulsory pass requirement at 40%. This implies that it is compulsory for a learner to pass two languages, one of which is the Home Language and must pass Mathematics, in order to be promoted. Concern has been raised during the academic year from within the sector that the current CAPS promotion requirements need to be reviewed and policy review in this regard is underway.
However, in order not to disadvantage the current cohort of learners, a special condonation dispensation was urgently required to accommodate learners whose promotion to the next grade may be adversely affected by the compulsory requirement of passing Mathematics at level 3 (40%).
It should be noted that the decision to apply a condonation dispensation in view of the stringent pass requirements, was an administrative decision that had to be made within the limited time available. The Circular should only be considered as an interim measure for 2016 and is only applicable for Grades 7, 8 and 9.
The Circular does not undermine the policy intention of CAPS on raising the bar in terms of promotion requirements by having taken the bold step of making Mathematics a compulsory promotion/progression requirement. Nor, does it limit efforts to improve Mathematics attainment. However, in raising standards there is a need for a gradual transition from the current to the higher envisaged standards hence this policy review that is underway and this interim condonation dispensation.
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