Matric upswing expected

2014-01-06 00:00

SCHOOLS with poor matric results in KwaZulu-Natal will have a lot to answer for in the new school year.

This warning from the provincial Education Department comes as matriculants wait with bated breath for the announcement today of the 2013 matric results by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. The full results will be published in The Witness tomorrow.

A slight improvement in the matric pass is expected, with KZN saying they hope they did better than the 73,1% pass rate achieved in 2012.

Departmental spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said this confidence stems from the intervention programmes for teachers and pupils throughout the year. He said those schools that perform badly will have a lot to answer for.

Experts and unions projected that of the 707 145 Grade 12s who sat for their exams, about 75% of them are going to be recipients of the National Senior Certificate (NSC).

But there are concerns about the quality of the passes.

Pupils need only 40% in three subjects — including home language — and 30% in another three subjects to pass.

The matric pass rate for 2012 was 73,9%, up by 3,7% from 2011. The country is likely to see a similar upswing trend for 2013.

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke predicted a five percent increase due for factors such as maturing curriculum and teachers having done the best that they could. “But again, there are challenges of how many will qualify for the Bachelors,” he added.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) president Basil Manuel foresees a marginal increase of one percent or even two percent. “Anything more than this will be worrisome. The system isn’t changing to expect a [great] increase.”

Manuel’s wish is for quality passes, which he says is a great challenge to improve. “Most matric certificates are taking matrics nowhere … and employers look at the results and think it’s a joke,” he added.

Naptosa is also bothered by the large number of youngsters who do not complete Grade 12. Reports suggest that up to 50% of the Grade 1s who start schooling will not finish high school.

“So, when statistics are released, it’s 75% pass rate of the 50% who managed to reach Grade 12. Those are our concerns. It’s the whole system that needs to be addressed, not matric,” Manuel advised.

However, he believes the department has a sound curriculum, teacher skills have improved and the exam system has stabilised.

National Teachers’ Union (Natu) deputy president Allen Thompson, said they were optimistic about the 2013 result due to minimal disruptions.

He believes that extensive study camps for matriculants, curriculum training for teachers and revision will yield positive results. “Even so, we’re worried about maths and physical science because the department has failed to attract qualified teachers in these subjects, especially in rural areas.”

He said the department once again dropped the ball in paying the rural incentive, decreasing class sizes and distributing resources in rural schools.

Dr Edith Dempster, senior research associate at the School of Education at University of KwaZulu-Natal, also predicts an improvement.

“Last year was the last year that the candidates were writing the current curriculum. So, the department will try to get through as many pupils as possible to free up the pipeline,” Dempster suggested.

The class of 2014 will write the new revised syllabus, which has been implemented as of this month.

Dempster said the department’s intervention for under-performing schools had involved the setting of common tests and plenty of support.

She thinks the department has put in considerable effort, but would like to see less emphasis on “formal” assessment and more on deep learning in schools.

Professor Sizwe Mabizela, chair of Umalusi Council, a body for quality assurance in General and Further Education and Training, deemed the results fair, valid and credible at a media briefing last week.

The council raised concerns about subjects such as mathematics, stating the majority of pupils still perform at a low level. The council was also worried about the quality of marking, which according to them, “still poses a significant challenge in many subjects”.

He reiterated the controversial call, rejected by Sadtu, for markers to take a competency test on the subject they wish to mark. “Markers with limited subject knowledge tend to disadvantage top learners who produce innovative and original responses to questions.

“This is particularly the case in open-ended questions where innovative and creative responses are provided by the learners,” Mabizela added.

However, Sadtu’s Maluleke, said Mabizela’s call missed the point. Maluleke said something must be done about what is happening in the classroom rather than during “a four-day period of marking”.

Umalusi said there were also significant challenges to ensure that African home languages are assessed at an appropriate level, he added.

“… We must guard against any obsession with pass rates, which tend to hide more than they reveal,” said Mabizela.

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