Basic Education postpones writing of Annual National Assessment

The Annual National Assessment (ANA) was introduced by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in 2011, it covered Grades one to six in Numeracy and Literacy, in 2012 Grade 9 learners were included and in 2015, Grades 8 and 9 learners were added, which implies that a total of 8.6 million learners were scheduled to be assessed in 2015.

The National Assessment is administered by the Department of Basic Education, on an annual basis, to assess the level of performance of learners in the two key areas of the school curriculum. The National Assessments have indicated a general improvement in the performance of learners in literacy and numeracy over the last four years.

The National Assessment programme is a developing intervention in the South African General Education and Training system and we are drawing from best international practice as we craft a model that is most appropriate for the South African context. Over the last five years we have reflected on the key elements of ANA, at a Senior Management level as well as in the Council of Education Ministers meetings. The review related to its purpose, frequency, scope, the standard and quality of the tests, the utilisation of the ANA data by schools and its role in the remediation of learning deficiencies.

In support of this approach the DBE has published a draft policy on National Assessment for public comment and a wide range of comments have already been received from the key role players. The intention is to engage with stakeholders and the Unions in particular after the public comments were analysed and consolidated in designing a revised and appropriate national assessment model that is fit for our purpose

The three major Teacher Unions, South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU); National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), and SAOU have over recent weeks publicly expressed concerns about the administration of the Annual National Assessment (ANA). The main concern of the Teacher Unions related to the frequency of the administration of ANA, its administrative demands, which did not leave enough time and room for improvement strategies to take root, before learners are re-assessed.

At a meeting between the Teacher Unions and senior officials of the Department of Basic Education, consensus was reached to postpone the writing of the Annual National Assessment (ANA 2015), until the first week of February 2016. It was agreed that the schooling environment, given the prevailing conditions and Union concerns to the administration of ANA, was not conducive to the writing of this very significant test, which provides valuable information on learner performance at the national, provincial, district and school level.

Following the discussions between the Teacher Unions and the Department of Basic Education, the Unions as a collective have confirmed their commitment to the National Assessment programme, which has made significant in-roads in identifying weaknesses and strengths in the teaching and learning process.

It was also agreed that the frequency of these tests need to be reviewed and therefore a Task Team comprising the Teacher Unions and the DBE will be immediately constituted to support the Department in the re-modelling of the ANA so that the re-designed version of National Assessment can be launched next year.

The Department of Basic Education considers the postponement to be in the best interest of schooling stability and will also assist in improving the quality and thrust of the national assessment programme. Learners and teachers will be afforded additional space and time to address areas of weakness that have been identified in the previous assessment before the entire system is once again subjected to this national assessment in the new year.

Over the next ninety days, the Task Team will engage the Teacher Unions and address their concerns so that the future design features of the national assessment are more amenable to the schools, teachers, learners and parents.

Given the postponement of ANA 2015, schools will be informed via an official circular with regard to the management of the next steps in this regard.

There is general agreement that the National Assessment programme is a cornerstone of the Basic Education system that will continue to serve diagnostic and systemic evaluation purposes and as a consequence, it will drive improvement in the system so that we meet the targets of the National Development Plan and the outcomes of the Departments Action Plan 2030.

Like all assessment programmes internationally, acceptance of the outcomes of an assessment or evaluation by the participants in the assessment programme, are fundamental in ensuring that the assessment finally serves its purpose. As a system we are on track to moving curriculum and assessment innovations so that they are in keeping with the demands of the 21st century.

Enquiries:

Elijah Mhlanga

Cell: 083 580 8275

Troy Martens

Cell: 079 899 3070