Education mulls lowering pass marks for junior years in high school

2017-07-05 13:45
“What the department [of Basic Education] is doing is like bringing the standard to the pupils rather than taking pupils to the standard. Pupils should be pushed to reach the standard — not make it easy for them to meet the standard.”

“What the department [of Basic Education] is doing is like bringing the standard to the pupils rather than taking pupils to the standard. Pupils should be pushed to reach the standard — not make it easy for them to meet the standard.” (File)

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Are pass marks in school set to even drop further?

The Department of Basic Education has put forward a proposal to reduce the pass mark for home language in senior phase (Grade 7, 8 and 9), and it wants to drop maths as a compulsory promotion requirement in that phase.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the pass marks for these grades are currently higher than the pass marks for Grade 10 to Matric, and he said the proposals were made to align pass rates in the two phases of schooling. The proposal suggests pupils can obtain a pass mark of 40% instead of 50% for home language in these grades.

“The department will embark on a broad consultation process with educationists, assessment experts, higher education institutions, parents and members of the public, on the amendments to the Foundation, Intermediate and Senior Phase promotion requirements,” said Mhlanga.

The proposal for senior phase entails:

• Removing the requirement that pupils must pass maths if they are not going to take the subject up to Grade 12;

• Pupils will be required to attain at least 30% in four subjects;

• The pass mark for the other four subjects, including home language, will be 40%.

Last year the department instructed public schools to give a condoned pass to all grades 7 to 9 pupils who obtained 20% in mathematics instead of the required 40% because of the high number of pupils who had received less than 40% in the subject.

“It is therefore considered necessary, having observed the negative impact of the compulsory pass requirement of Mathematics at 40% and Language (Home Language) at 50%, to consider amending policy and regulations in order to respond to the challenges and the unintended consequences brought about by the new programme and promotion requirements,” he said.

National Teachers’ Union president Sipho Ngcobo said lowering the pass mark would lower the quality of education.

“This will further disadvantage the children of the previously disadvantaged. What the department is doing is like bringing the standard to the pupils rather than taking pupils to the standard. Pupils should be pushed to reach the standard — [we should] not make it easy for them to meet the standard.

“Maths and science are the gateway to skills that SA lacks. By removing maths as a compulsory promotion requirement, you are further crippling the country’s economy.

“By pushing pupils to the next grade, the department is also trying to save costs, because they know if there are more people in one class, they will need [to spend] more money,” he said.

Ngcobo challenged the department to focus more on teacher development and employ more subject advisers.

“Teachers need support from subject advisers. The department also needs to stop cadre deployment when appointing subject advisers. They must employ competent people,” he said.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa spokesperson Basil Manuel said that the union supported having the same pass mark across the different grades at school.

“The distinct phases have different pass requirements, but there is no logic to have a higher pass requirement in grades 7 to 9 than for grades 10 to 12. The proposal is to bring them all in line.

“We believe this is a longstanding problem that needs to be addressed.

“We need to even out the requirements with the national senior certificate‚” Manuel said.


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