Why Learners Fail by Sakaria Amutenya by Sakaria Amutenya - Read Online

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Why Learners Fail - Sakaria Amutenya

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As a visionary nation, we need to understand what the crucial factors are that seem to contribute to the high failure rate of Grade 12 learners in the country before we can even begin to mitigate this nation’s educational problem. The performance level of Grade 12 learners in the country says much about whether the education system is effective or not. Poor performance levels in Grade 12 are experienced not only in the Oshikoto region, but in most education regions in Namibia (Iyambo, 2010).

As a teacher who has been teaching at a secondary school for 14 years in the Oshikoto region, for many years I have been dismayed when observing the persistently poor performance levels of most Grade 12 learners in the region. It is common for most Grade 12 learners at the majority of senior secondary schools in the region to achieve very low academic attainments at the end of each academic year. This means that at most public secondary schools in the Oshikoto region only very few Grade 12 learners manage to pass Grade 12 with results that meet the entry requirements to the University of Namibia. Most of the learners attain very poor academic results which do not qualify them for admission to any institutions of higher learning in the country and abroad. This has been a serious concern to the parents, teachers, the Ministry of Education and, of course, the learners themselves.

It is embarrassing to see most of the learners going into the streets, where they usually join other unemployed youth after the completion of their Grade 12. As an educator, my expectation has always been to observe most Grade 12 learners completing their matriculation with quality academic gains. The Namibia National Curriculum for Basic Education (2009:4) states clearly that: At the end of Grade 12, learners should be well prepared for further study or training or employment. The continued poor performance of Grade 12 learners in the region tells us that these learners do not seem to be well prepared for a good future. They seem rather to be well prepared for a bad future and a harsh adulthood life of unemployment.

The poor performance of Grade 12 learners prompted me as an educator to investigate factors that could possibly contribute to the poor achievement levels of Grade 12 learners. Hargreaves (2003:1) states that teachers are expected to ‘mitigate and counteract problems’ that are impeding the academic success of learners in schools. As a result, I decided to conduct research at two senior secondary schools in the Oshikoto region, and then to write this book, which suggests possible factors contributing to the poor academic achievement levels of Grade 12 learners in rural secondary schools. The schools where I conducted the research are named as School A and School B for the purposes of this book.

The book reveals some of the significant challenges that could have had influence on the low academic achievement levels of Grade 12 learners since Namibia’s independence in 1990. Some of these challenges are the teachers’ own levels of education, and the effect of their placements at primary and secondary education phases. This is discussed in the section covering ‘The history of Namibia’s education system’ in this book. Furthermore, this book also presents some of the crucial challenges that most Grade 12 learners are faced with at Schools A and B.

Chapter 1 of this book highlights the historical background of Namibia’s education system. This seeks to understand whether the current achievement levels of Grade 12 learners are influenced by the country’s education system’s background, the current education system’s practices, or other factors. Hence, the historical background of Namibia’s education system and other various social and environmental factors seem to have had a significant influence on Grade 12 learners’ performances in school. These all form the discussion passages of this book. The following section outlines the importance of Grade 12.

The Importance of Grade 12

Being the highest and the final grade at school for the learner, Grade 12 is a very significant educational level in the future livelihood of every learner. After the completion of Grade 12, a learner faces the future in which he or she is expected to become a self-dependent adult. Given the importance of Grade 12 in terms of accessing both higher education institutions and the employment market, achievement at this level remains a crucial policy concern in some developing African countries such as Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana (Berg and Louw, 2006; Kapenda et al., 2011; Legotlo et al., 2002; Nenty, 2010; Oluwatoyin, 2006).

Since Namibia won its independence in 1990, the Ministry of Education has enacted policies to improve the quality of education and address the prevailing low academic achievement levels of learners in schools. From 2008 until 2010, fewer than 5% of Grade 12 learners from Schools A and B in the Oshikoto region met the entry requirements for the University of Namibia (Ministry of Education, 2009). This tells us that approximately 95% of Grade 12 learners from Schools A and B attained low academic achievement levels from Grade 12, and could not match the entry requirements of the University of Namibia. Hence, it is evident that academic performance levels of Grade 12 learners from Schools A and B were disappointing to all stakeholders in education, such as the Ministry of Education, teachers, parents and the learners themselves in the region (Iyambo, 2010; Mutorwa, 2004).

Legotlo et al. (2002) emphasize that Grade 12 results are used to measure and judge the effectiveness and efficiency of the school system in the country. Research studies have been conducted to investigate the causes of low academic achievement levels of Grade 12 learners in southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Namibia and Zambia (Berg and Louw, 2006; Kapenda et al., 2011 ; Legotlo et al., 2002; Nenty, 2010). Low achievement levels of Grade 12 learners are a matter of concern not only in Namibia, but also in many African countries (Berg and Louw, 2006).

A good education system is reflected by good performance in schools’ Grade 12 examinations’ average pass rates each academic year (Legotlo et al., 2002). If the performance levels of Grade 12 learners are low each academic year, this reflects crucial problems within the education system which need to be identified and addressed. Scholars inform us that there are several factors that may impact on learners’ performance levels at schools, with some of these being: school leadership and management, socio-economic factors, school environment, teachers’ actions, teaching methods, learners’ cognitive abilities, learners’ motivation, learners’ study skills, learners’ educational background, parental educational background, and so on (Alma, 2001; Alokan et al., 2013; Haralambos and Holborn, 2008; Legotlo et al., 2002; Mwamwenda, 1996; Kasambira, 2000; Seibert, 2002).