Western Cape Education lengthens school hours

To make up for learning deficits brought on by the epidemic, students in the Western Cape will study math and reading for an additional 60 hours.

MEC in education  David Maynier on Tuesday said the Covid-19 pandemic had the greatest impact on kids in Classes 1 to 3 and the WCED was taking every precaution to prevent disadvantage for the youngest students in later grades.

“The intervention will see an extra 2 hours per week allocated to reading and 1 extra hour per week for Mathematics, for all Foundation Phase students in the province – amounting to an increase of at least 60 learning hours per student in the subjects over the remainder of the year,” Maynier said.

He continued by saying that the intervention will assist ongoing recovery programs.“These increases will be accommodated by adjusting the amount of time allocated to Life Skills, so the intervention will not increase the length of the school day. We recognize the importance of Life Skills teaching in the development of our students. It is therefore important that the remaining time for the subject be used effectively within the new timetables.”

The 2021 systemic exam results, which were released by the WCED earlier this year, showed serious learning deficits brought on by the pandemic.

“The greatest learning losses can be seen in the Foundation Phase. We have always maintained that the loss of contact (face-to-face) teaching time would affect our youngest students the most as they do not have the same self-discipline, maturity, or structure that our older students would have to cope with rotating timetables and learning at home,” Maynier said.

The passing percentages for the Systemic Test in Grade 3 in mathematics and language decreased by 13.8 and 8.0 percentage points, respectively, between the years 2021 and 2019.

“We have engaged with union representatives, principals’ associations, WCED officials, and senior Foundation Phase teachers who are supportive of this intervention. We all recognize that we cannot afford to wait until next year to address learning losses. A minute will be sent to schools outlining what is required and providing suggested timetables when implementing the intervention. All Foundation Phase teachers will participate in a webinar on Monday 25 July 2022, to take them through the intervention before it is implemented,” Maynier said.

The intervention will be monitored over the last weeks of the academic year, and a review report will be created to guide the actions that will be conducted in 2023. In addition, the party is pleading with the government to aid by bringing back retired teachers. Due to sporadic closures and rotational learning since Covid-19 began in 2020, schools have lost up to 50% of their curriculum.

Hendrick Makaneta, an advocate for education, weighed in on the subject and concurred that, when used properly, the hour-long extension would enhance learning he said “It will require proper monitoring by principals and members of the school’s management team as some may use the time as just an additional school break, where they will just sit in class. Proper monitoring is required.”

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