Teacher beliefs about grade repetition: An exploratory South African study | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 13, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1751-1917
  • E-ISSN: 1751-1925



Inclusive education is described as an ‘apprenticeship in democracy’ as it is concerned with the identification and dismantling of exclusionary practices in schools. One such practice is grade repetition, which is known to result in school disaffection and early school leaving. In South Africa, grade repetition is disproportionately experienced by black and poor learners, resulting in the unequal realization of the democratic right to education. The rate of grade repetition in this country is high, but little is known about teachers’ beliefs about the practice. This article presents the results of a self-administered questionnaire in which Johannesburg teachers described what they regarded as the benefits and drawbacks of grade repetition. The data showed that teachers believe that the additional time spent in a repeated year compensates for immaturity, allows learners to ‘catch up’ and be better prepared for the subsequent grade. Teachers do acknowledge negative emotional and behavioural consequences of grade repetition, but many see no drawbacks to the practice. These beliefs are discussed with reference to the context in which they are engendered, with particular focus on the strong teacher and curriculum control over the pace at which knowledge acquisition is expected. It is argued that addressing the high levels of grade repetition will need critical examination of both the teacher beliefs that sustain the practice and the habits of schools that make failure inevitable for some learners.


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