47% quit at Grade 10

2014-01-10 00:00

ALMOST half of the pupils who should have written matric last year had dropped out of the system at the end of Grade 10.

Their disappearance is one of the explanations for the increased pass rate of 78,2%.

Educational experts meanwhile warned about the systemic and “political” pressure on principals to push out under-achieving pupils.

A Beeld investigation found:

• Most pupils had disappeared between grades 10 and 12 from the system in last year’s top two provinces, the North West and Free State;

• Of the 1 261 827 Grade 1s in 2002, only 171 755, or 13,6%, passed in 2013 with exemption to study for a degree; and

• Only 34,8% of the pupils who started school in 2002 passed matric last year.

Beeld’s comparison of the department’s official school enrollment figures showed thousands of the pupils who dhould have written matric last year dropped out in their Grade 11 year.

In her announcement of the rise in the pass rate on Monday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga hardly mentioned these pupils. At the end of her speech she said the number of pupils who did not pass or who dropped out had to be “drastically” reduced.

Educational experts say the high number of drop-outs negates any celebration to last year’s high matric pass rate.

In 2012 the drop-out rate was 20,8%, with 1 055 790 Grade 10 pupils dropping to 835 667 Grade 11 pupils in 2012.

Even more pupils (33,4%) had “disappeared” between grades 11 and 12, a drop from 835 667 to 556 445, of whom 439 779 passed matric.

Professor Jan Heystek, an education expert at the North West University, said all schools experienced a gradual drop in the number pupils from grades 1 to 7.

This could be attributed to pupils who did not pass a year and didnot return to school, no adults at home, or a shortage of money, which impacts on uniforms, transport, job opportunities and nutrition.

“Another important factor is what value the school system holds for pupils and parents. If they feel they will not get any financial or positive value, parents will not encourage children to stay in school.”

Other experts feel the high drop-out rate after Grade 10 has more to do with systemic pressure being put on principals; and pupils who do not have to be in school after they have turned 15.

Dr Jean van Rooyen and Professor Rika Joubert, education experts at the University of Pretoria, said government’s policy of promoting pupils to the next grade played a role.

Up until Grade 9 pupils may only fail each teaching phase once and pupils who fail again are promoted to the next phase. Up to Grade 9 pupils are assessed and developed throughout the year and they do not get experience in preparing for and writing exams. From Grade 10 to 12 the pupils are assessed primarily by tests and projects.

Van Rooyen and Joubert said teachers’ knowledge also played a role. In many districts, exam questions are drawn up by school groups. These more standardised assessments lead to many pupils dropping out between grades 10 and 12.

Heystek said politics also had an influence on the pass rate. “Principals’ salaries are linked to the number of pupils they have. It is to their advantage to have as many pupils as possible, but the schools also do not want a poor pass rate so pupils who did not pass Grade 12 are not welcome back. If they do stay on, it will make the minister and the provincial department’s statistics look bad.”

She said district managers had the final say on the promotion of candidates and guided principals to be a lot stricter with the pass requirements in grades 10 and 11.

Director of Communications and Research at the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhanga, said there were many reasons for the high drop-out rate.

Some pupils go to colleges for further education and training, some leave school to start work because their are heads of their households, and others clash with the law and end up in prison. Other reasons include home schooling and deaths.

“Another important factor is what value the school system holds for pupils and parents.”

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