Maths set to cripple results

The new curriculum poses a number of challenges, not only for learners but for school infrastructure and teachers too.

02 January 2019 | Education

This year, higher education in Namibia kicks off with the greatest changes since the Cambridge system was implemented shortly after independence.

The new curriculum for the Namibian Senior Secondary Certificate on ordinary level (NSSCO), to be followed by grades 10 and 11 this year and next year, consists of four study fields: natural sciences, humanities, technology and trade.

Maths, like English, is still compulsory. Learners will also have to take another language, two subjects from the above-mentioned study fields, one subject from a list of 19 available subjects and four support subjects. This makes a total of ten subjects with six exam subjects.

Health and social services is listed as a new subject but will not be offered this year. This course will prepare learners for careers in the health and social services sector.

Special permission will be required for a learner to do only one language. Support subjects include life skills, art, communication and information, physical education and a reading period.

These subject choices depend on the availability of teachers.

Textbooks and money

As far as can be determined, schools have not yet received the necessary textbooks for the new NSSCO curriculum although orders were placed. Instructions to schools state that the current textbooks can still be used. The education ministry did not provide any further information except to say the prescribed procurement processes have been followed. According to education permanent secretary Sanet Steenkamp, the ministry received a reallocated amount of N$380 million during the mid-term budget in October last year. Some N$170 million of this is needed to pay salaries from January to March this year and the remaining N$208 million will be applied to the appointment of extra teachers and the implementation of the new curriculum.

New pass requirements

The new pass requirement for this year's internal grade 10 exams is an average of 40% or an E for English and four other exam subjects.

“This will certainly place pressure on both sides of the system,” one principal said. If more grade 10s have to repeat the year, there will be larger classes in 2020. However, because theoretically all grade 10s can pass with the new system, there will also be much larger grade 11 classes in 2020.

There are strict directives regarding extra support to those learners who do not pass grade 9 or 10.

Borderline cases who may be passed are those that achieved a grade of 2% less than the pass requirement. If a learner is promoted despite having failed, such a learner is to receive extra support.

According to the official memo sent out in May last year, communities and parents were to be informed timeously of the changes. It is not clear whether this has indeed taken place across the country.

Moreover, regional offices have been instructed to support and monitor schools that offer NSSCO for the first time. Furthermore, staff of those schools well versed in higher education are to be used for this purpose.


Currently, grade 11 and 12 learners have the option to take maths at core or extended level. The new curriculum only provides for the extended level.

The school principal who spoke to Namibian Sun is of the view that this will affect maths results and the pass rate.

“I predict major headaches. Some children are simply not good at maths. The results of 2020 will show whether or not this is correct.”

Maths is still compulsory and it is regarded as a key subject for a learner's development.

According to Dr Patrick Simalumba from the National Institute for Educational Development (NIED), maths has been compulsory for NSSCO since 2012.

“The performance of the learners is satisfactory and not bad,” he said.

Grade 12

One school principal is positive that grade 12 learners who follow the year-long Namibia Secondary School Certificate Advanced Subsidiary (NSSCAS) will work in a more goal-oriented way than they are able to in the current curriculum of two years for grades 11 and 12.

“This change is very positive for learners who would like to pursue tertiary education in South Africa or elsewhere in the world.”

According to NIED, learners who want to complete six subjects in one year will need extra support.

The ministry has recommended a minimum of three and a maximum of five subjects for NSSCAS.

Grade 12s will have life skills and communication and information as their two support subjects.

Simalumba predicts an increase in NSSCAS learners despite that fact that currently learners have fewer than three subjects and often only one – their mother tongue – on higher level. There is concern that higher level candidates will decrease.

However, Simalumba says there will be more NSSCO schools that will provide a higher number of learners for grade 12.


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