Exploring the school-university mathematics skills gap for Economic Sciences

2021 Perspectives in Education  
The training of highly skilled persons for the areas of Economics and Commerce requires that degree students upon entry need certain knowledge and skills in mathematics including aspects of statistics. The context is distance education and entry students seem unable to cope with the requirements of the mathematicsbased topics that they need to study at the first year of tertiary education. It resulted in university staff speculating about a gap in pre-knowledge and skills. This study aims to
more » ... estigate this phenomenon, starting with content and Revised Bloom's Taxonomy analyses of final year school examination papers in mathematics, comparing it with similar analyses of first-year mathematics-based module examinations in the Economic sciences. Students that passed mathematics at school are supposed to have had adequate preparation for the first level Bachelor of Commerce. Coping with routine procedures mainly upon exit from secondary education does not signal well for the subsequent training of economists and commerce students. The situation seemingly does not improve at tertiary level where there is a further emphasis on routine procedures compared to higher order thinking skills. publicised in the local news media, from headings such as "School maths failing varsity entrants" (Nkosi, 2013) and "Adding up SA's dire maths emergency" (Tau, 2014) to "Shocking facts about school maths in South Africa" (News24 Wire, 2015). We will be comparing the mathematics skills as assessed in the final year of school with that in the first year of university study for the Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degrees. The study was prompted by the stark reality that for years now, students have been admitted to BCom degrees at the University of South Africa (Unisa) with university exemption based on their school results, but within the first year, the dropout rate could on average be more than 50%. Of those students persisting and making it to the semester examinations, the average pass rate for first-year Economics for example could be below the 50% mark (Pretorius et al., 2009) . The effectiveness of the school and university systems to enhance the learning experience in mathematics-based courses for economy and commerce students, is questioned here. 2021 39(2): 36-51
doi:10.18820/2519593x/pie.v39.i2.4 fatcat:fntmiyby3vbz3e37livrg2sepa