n South African Journal of Education - Some effects of ability grouping in Harare secondary schools : a case study

Volume 23, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0256-0100
  • E-ISSN: 2076-3433



This article describes the experiences of the first author in the research he conducted in two Harare secondary schools. The objective of the research was to assess the influence of ability grouping on learners. In particular, the research sought to examine how this practice affected classroom instruction, learner performance and the social stratification among learners. A qualitative research methodology was followed during which in-depth interviews were conducted with teachers, administrators and learners. These were complemented with informal conversations, where relevant comments were noted. Analysis of relevant documents, observations and limited participation were also employed as means of collecting data. The main findings of this study were that: teachers tended not to prepare thoroughly for the so-called low ability classes; learners placed in low ability classrooms felt that school authorities and learners in high ability classrooms discriminated against them; learners in high ability classrooms believed that teachers who "bunked" their classes saw them as intelligent enough to learn on their own and that learners in low ability classes were disruptive and did not want to learn; social relationships among learners from the two groups w ere poor, creating an unhealthy social stratification. It was therefore concluded that the negative aspects of ability grouping outweighed its often professed positive aspects. It is therefore recommended that this practice be re-examined.

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