There are mixed emotions about the impact of failing a grade on a child. The Democratic Alliance Education spokesman Khume Ramulifho said the student might feel like they are not good enough and that might even cause them to drop out altogether.
In those cases, he said schools that teach skills such as welding, plumbing and construction could be the answer.
He added that repetition had sometimes led to bullying due to age gaps between pupils.
The implications of grade repetition:
Program director for the Zero Dropout campaign, Merle Mansfield, said repeating a grade can damage a child’s self-esteem and motivation, sometimes permanently.
“It also becomes costly with at least 8% of the national basic education budget in 2018-2019 spent on grade repetition.
“In addition, a high repetition rate means that many students are too old for their class. “It increases their chances of dropping out,” she added.
Mansfield said that by grade 4, a third of students were already at least a year out, and by grade 12 the proportion had risen to 55-59%.
More than one in five students who reached the baccalaureate were at least three years older than the norm. “On the other hand, pushing a student all the way to the next grade before they’re ready isn’t ideal either.
“That could cause them to fall even further behind and have even greater learning inequalities in higher grades,” she said.
But she pointed out that repeating a year without making up for it did not serve the right purpose. “For students to benefit from repetition, we would need to offer additional support like psychosocial and academic support so they can grasp concepts they have missed before,” she said.
“In developing countries like South Africa, our already overburdened education system lacks the systems to provide this extra support,” she said.
But research has shown that South African children who repeat early grades make impressive learning progress over the repeated year.
“However, we must be careful not to make bad students repeat a year, with great psychological costs for the students. “In an ideal world, we would want to step in before students fail and bring in the right kind of support preemptively,” she said.
Hoërskool Wonderboom headmaster Marius Lezar said pupils did not feel safe participating in sports groups in higher grades.
Lezar said that according to the guidelines of the respective sports bodies, students were not allowed to participate in sports groups that included participants older than them.
“That’s why we always welcome 7th graders to participate with us if they are a year older than their class,” he said.
Lezar said it got easier in high school because students could compete on open teams starting in 10th grade. “The sad thing is that parents often don’t provide the necessary support,” he said.
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