Concerns over KZN pass rate

2015-01-06 00:00

BASIC Education Minister Angie Motshekga has announced an investigation into the factors that contributed to KwaZulu-Natal’s 7,7 percentage points decrease in the matric pass rate achieved by the 2014 class.

The minister announced the 2014 National Senior Certificate exam results last night, saying the national pass rate had dropped 2,4 percentage points.

This year’s pass rate is 75,8%, versus the 2013 pass rate of 78,2%.

In December she announced that the pass mark for Grade 12 would be increased as part of the department’s efforts to increase the quality of education.

KZN, which had the largest number of pupils writing last year’s matric exams, recorded the steepest decline, achieving a 69,7% pass rate, down from 2013’s 77,4%.

“KZN dropped by 7,7 percentage points. It is the steepest decline of all the provinces. KZN has the largest number of Grade 12 pupils in the 2014 NSC examinations.

“We need to look seriously into the factors affecting KZN’s performance,” said Motshekga.

Local experts said there are several factors contributing to KZN’s performance.

Education expert Professor Labby Ramrathan said, “Because KZN has the highest number of matrics that wrote the exams, any fluctuation will be evident.

“There are several factors that may have contributed to the decline, so I don’t think it is fair for the minister to assume that there is a problem,” said Ramrathan.

University of South Africa’s Professor Vuyisile Msila disagreed, saying the minister had every reason to be concerned. “It is clear that there are problems in KZN; it is either the quality of teachers or school management.

“We should also remember that KZN and the Eastern Cape are very unique in that there are large numbers of rural schools,” said Msila.

Professor Wayne Hugo, who teaches at the School of Education and Development at UKZN, agreed with Msila.

“The Eastern Cape has a lot more rural schools and less good schools. In KZN we have lots of rural schools, lots of peri-urban schools and a high number of urban areas.

“What they did with the marks was to drop the marks of the pupils who did really well and increase the marks of the poorer performing pupils. That is why there is a significant drop in the results,” he said.

Hugo questioned why, despite having a dysfunctional education system, provinces like the Eastern Cape saw an increase in their pass rates.

Gauteng was named the best performing province with a 84,7% pass rate. The worst performing province was the Eastern Cape, where 65,4% passed.

The minister said there had been increases in the number of distinctions achieved in some subjects. “History increased from 3,3% to 4,1%, Mathematical Literacy increased from 1,8% to 2,4% and Physical Science increased by 0,3% to 3,3%,” said Motshekga.

Gauteng contributed the highest number of candidates qualifying for bachelor’s degree studies with 36 843, followed by KZN with 35 724 and Western Cape with 18 524. The number of bachelor’s passes from Limpopo was also notable at 16 325, said Motshekga.

She also announced that of the 39 centres in KwaZulu-Natal implicated in the cheating scandal, 11 had been cleared of any irregular activity. She said the remaining 28 centres would be further investigated this month.

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