The Department of Basic Education’s new model of national assessments, which will be piloted in October, will be crucial for improving education, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Wednesday.
During her budget vote she said that the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) had been reviewed and reconceptualised as the National Integrated Assessment Framework (NIAF). The new model will be sample-based and administered in Grades 3, 6 and 9 once every three years.
This, said Motshekga, would provide the basic education sector, especially personnel involved in planning and evaluation, with valuable data on the health of the system and trends in learner performance.
In 2016, the department seemed to cave in to pressure from the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), and abandoned the ANAs for pupils. They were introduced in 2011 as a common annual assessment to test literacy and numeracy skills of pupils from grades 1 to 9.
The assessments were at the centre of squabbles between the union and the department. Sadtu and other teacher unions argued that in their current form the ANAs were not beneficial to pupils.
The unions also contended that writing the tests annually meant that schools were not given enough time to put in place intervention programmes to improve outcomes.
In 2015, unions called for a boycott of the tests which were meant to assess more than 8.6-million pupils across SA.
Motshekga said the new assessments, the NIAF, would pay particular attention to the "diagnostic assessment", which will be administered in the classroom to identify learning gaps and to plan remedial measures early in the learning process, so as to avoid learning deficits arising.
"The improvements that will emanate from the new model of national assessment include the use of a single assessment tool…. The case of the ANAs [which were] used for a variety of purposes, is now avoided through the three separate assessment tools, each with a specific purpose," Motshekga said.
"Secondly, with the systemic assessment being administered every three years, it gives the system ample time to remediate before the next assessment.
"The use of the outcome of the summative examination for promotion purpose will ensure the cost of a national examination is justified."
Motshekga insisted that the overall quality, efficiency and inclusivity of the basic education system was on the rise.
But DA MP and basic education spokesman Gavin Davis said the basic education sector was underperforming and put the blame on the minister and Sadtu.