Fingers crossed for matrics

2012-12-31 00:00

SOUTH Africans should not expect a miracle from this year’s public school matric results.

Education experts say if there is an improvement over last year’s pass rate of 70,2%, it will be slight.

The results will be released on Thursday.

Experts said problems in Limpopo and the Eastern and Northern Cape could be reflected in the results.

Problems ranged from absent teachers and undersupply of textbooks to schools closed by unrest and violence.

Independent expert Muavia Gallie said the regulatory mechanism used did not allow for an improvement of more than five percent.

“If the rate increases [too much], there will be serious concerns about how it was achieved.”

He said the pass rate could also be influenced by the fact that more pupils wrote matric this year than in 2011.

This year, 527 335 full-time and 120 352 part-time candidates wrote, compared to last year’s figures of 512 029 full-time and 108 237 part-time candidates.

Gallie said the government would have done its best to keep the pass rate above the psychologically important 70%. He doesn’t believe any of the interventions the government has put its faith in will bring about a real improvement, because nothing truly new has been proposed to improve the quality of teaching.

He said many schools faced an enormous challenge in teaching pupils really useful knowledge.

The syllabus, especially in subjects like science, is heavily focused on getting pupils to do exercises and answer questions without fully understanding the principles of what they are being taught.

Professor Jan Heystek, an educationist at North West University, said the public would soon realise something was awry if there was too big an improvement in the results.

“Nowhere have we seen the consistent improvement that could give us better results.”

He also referred to problems in some provinces that would probably influence this year’s results.

Dr Vimbi Mahlangu, an educationist at the University of Pretoria, said there could be an improvement in the average pass rate, but the quality of teaching in critical subjects was still a problem.

“For instance, you can have schools where 80% of pupils pass, but only 30% get university entrance grades. That means only 30% really did well enough.”

Mahlangu said a real improvement in the pass rate could come about only when all schools has proper facilities, learning materials, textbooks and well-trained teachers.

Professor Mary Metcalfe, honorary professor at Wits and the University of Johannesburg, and a former Gauteng Education MEC, said better results would be possible if there is a real improvement in teacher support and development.

“Improvement will only come in the long term if teaching is improved from the foundation phase up to grade 12,” she said.

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