Angie Motshekga: Debunking the 30% pass myth

2013-10-20 14:00

In view of the forthcoming exams and the fact that I have established a task team to investigate the requirements, administration and publication of the matric pass, I feel it is important to take this opportunity to inform the public of its requirements.

I especially want to clarify the “30% pass rate” being bandied about by the likes of Agang?SA leader Mamphela Ramphele as the requirement to pass.

In her recent public address at Wits, Ramphele said: “When you say to a child 30% is good enough for you to pass because I don’t want you to fail, what does that (mean)? We’re saying poor black children are not smart enough?…?We’re imprisoning the minds of the children and their parents. Isn’t that a betrayal of the promise of freedom?”

As much as I hate to repeat the words of a student who accused her of hypocrisy, I agree that Ramphele is “intellectually dishonest” for her manipulative and inaccurate evaluation of our education system.

There is no such thing as a 30% pass mark for our National Senior Certificate (NSC). The real facts are that learners need to obtain 40% in their home language subjects and two other subjects, and a minimum of 30% in three other subjects.

There are four categories of achievements relating to the NSC?–?the basic NSC, the Admission to Higher Studies Certificate, the Admission to Diploma Studies Certificate and the Admission to Bachelor Studies Certificate. The basic NSC pass is the lowest of the four categories.

Of the total number of candidates who passed last year, only 0.1% passed with a basic NSC?–?that is, the MINIMUM REQUIREMENT to pass matric.

Last year, more learners than ever passed at the highest level with an admission to bachelor’s degree studies. To attain this, a learner must pass four designated subjects at 50%.

In my opinion, criticism is the product of our own success and the difficulty of acknowledging it. The Grade 12 pass rate last year reached its highest level (73.9%) since democracy. This is a remarkable feat.

Why, then, would people want to question the quality of the pass instead of praising the many interventions that brought us to this immense achievement? The naysayers were contradicted by Umalusi, the independent oversight body, which produced evidence to show that there had not been a compromise of quality, as some would have us believe.

Another indicator of the quality of our results is that 36% of learners passed with a bachelor’s degree entrance qualification. This is more than ever before.

The progress is a clear indication that SA cares deeply, not only about increasing access to the education system but also about the quality of our system. There is no reason for us to callously sacrifice our children’s education, as suggested by Ramphele?...?to what end?

Ramphele sees education as a soft target because it is still an emotional issue for many South Africans. It speaks to the discrimination of our past and the aspirations for our future.

The reckless and untrue statements bandied about by Ramphele on various platforms are simply to score cheap political points by tugging at the emotional heartstrings of our people with blatant lies. What we have achieved in education since 1994 cannot be allowed to be trivialised in this manner.

There are still many challenges, but there has been immense progress. We want to continue on a positive trajectory.

Previously, the focus was on increasing access to basic education as a constitutional right. This has been achieved, as 98% of children attend the compulsory levels of education.

The focus now is to continue to improve the quality of our education system and, ultimately, our NSC. This is why I have set up the task team to look into the pass requirement of 30% of the language of learning and teaching subjects to see if this is a realistic requirement to expect success in further studies.

I have not been deaf to the calls that the pass requirements are too low. The task team was set up in response to these calls. But it needs to be a scientific process based on research and analysis, not on false perceptions and personal opinions.

I hope we will all do our best not to opportunistically distort facts to create panic and present ourselves as messiahs to rescue poor kids abused by government.

Let’s treat education debates with integrity and not resort to desperate opportunism.

»?Motshekga is the minister of basic education

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