KZN slips as national pass rate improves again

2012-01-05 00:00

WHILE it was good news last night for the Class of 2011 with a national pass rate of 70,2%, KwaZulu-Natal’s matric results dropped below the national average to 68,1% — 2,6% down from 2010.

KZN educationists, unionists and provincial government officials, however, said there was no need for concern and that it was the quality of the pass that counted.

They were speaking after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga released the matric results. Individual results for public schools are set to be made public from 6 am today.

Motshekga declared that 2011 was a “prolific and productive year”, trumpeting the fact that the national pass rate had increased by 2,4% from 2010.

She expressed concern that in mathematics, the overall pass rate had declined from 47,4% to 46,3%, echoing concerns expressed last week by Umalusi, the body responsible for quality assurance.

On the positive side, however, the pass rate for physical science had increased from 47,8% to 53,4%, she said.

Motshekga, however, stressed that she was not 100% satisfied.

“I am really encouraged, but I can’t say that I am absolutely happy. There are still lots of areas where we have concerns.”

South Africa’s nearly 30% failure rate puts it well behind other Southern African Development Community countries — which according to Motshekga, had an average 10% failure rate.

In KZN the matric pass rate dropped by 2,6%, down from the 70,7% achieved in 2010, when the province increased its performance by nine percent from 2009.

In 2011, A total of 122 126 pupils wrote the National Senior Certificate exams in the province, with 83 204 matrics passing and 22,4% of them obtaining university entrance. The number of matrics writing the exams nationally have decreased by 40 000 from 2010.

Edith Dempster, a senior lecturer at UKZN’s school of education, said the results were encouraging.

“People should look at the overall increases in the pass rate of the country and see that there have been gradual improvements in the numbers of learners passing in the last three to five years.

“In KwaZulu-Natal we have seen some massive improvements in the last few years so a drop of two percent is actually not bad. It is probably a normalising situation.”

Dempster said KwaZulu-Natal had many problems in education infrastructure that caused it to be ranked sixth in the provincial education performance ratings.

“There are many issues that need to be addressed and some of these problems are endemic to the whole education system — not just KZN. Teacher attitudes, lack of training, school facilities and social problems. But you cannot compare us to Gauteng, where there are more facilities and an urban population.”

While 70,2% pass rate nationally was good news to start the year, Dempster warned that Motshekga was also trying to reach a political target set by her peers.

“It’s in everyone’s interests to be constantly vigilant about standards and the value of the matric pass”

Education unions, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) and National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), also reacted positively last night.

Sadtu provincial secretary Mbuyiseni Mathonsi said the 2011 results were of a better quality compared to the previous years.

“We have 83% schools that scored a 100% pass rate. In total 578 schools have scored between 80 to 100% and the majority of the schools are in rural areas.”

Of the 10 poorly performing districts, six are in the Eastern Cape, with one each in Limpopo, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and KZN (Obanjeni).

Mathonsi said no school had received a pass rate of nought percent.

An area of concern however was that Umalusi, the body responsible for quality assurance, had adjusted the Zulu mark downwards.

“The majority of KZN pupils are Zulu speakers. If you downscale the subject you are contributing to the decrease of the pass rate,” he said.

Naptosa KZN CEO Anthony Pierce said that the pass rate showed that teachers now knew what was expected of them.

“The system is improving nationally and no one person can claim that victory because it is a collaborative effort.

“We are concerned about the Obanjeni district and feel that education and political heads need to intervene. The other challenge is poor performance in maths and science which indicates that early intervention is needed,” said Pierce.

Professor Ruksana Osman, head of the Wits school of education, said the matric pass rate was a very encouraging sign.

“The two percent increase may be small but it is an increment improvement, which shows that overall we are making small improvements in the education system.” Dr Osman said that the matric pass rate had to be analysed in the context of where the students had begun.

“These students have had five years of OBE and they have had the benefits of some adaptation. We should not just attack the whole system, there have been some substantial efforts to address issues where there were shortfalls.”

Osman said the Western Cape and Gauteng were good performers in the provincial stakes not only because they had more resources, but probably because their education departments were strategic about resources and also placed teachers in schools where they were needed.

“I am not too worried about the small decline in the pass rate in KZN, these small adjustments are to be expected. One has to worry when there are radical shifts,” she said.

Osman said that despite the good news of an increase in the number of learners achieving a university entrance, she was not sure how many of them would be able to cope.

“They may have access to university, but they do not necessarily have the skills to survive in an academic environment and there is a high drop-out rate, that is still cause for concern.”

In his reaction, KZN education superintendent-general, Nkosinathi Sishi, said the provincial decline needed to be taken into context.

“In 2010 we improved by 9%, but one year’s performance does not mean that we have permanently moved to a low performance base.”

Sishi said the results were satisfactory, given the improvement in the number of university passes and endorsements for higher learning in the province.”

The province’s top 10 matriculants will be announced by Education MEC Senzo Mchunu, at a special awards ceremony at the International Convention Centre in Durban today.

Last night, President Jacob Zuma welcomed the results saying it was a “step in the right direction”.

The Democratic Alliance congratulated matric learners on Wednesday, especially those in the Western Cape, who achieved a national high of 82.9 percent.

The ANC Youth League said the results were visible proof that the African National Congress was prioritising education, while the IFP Youth Brigade said there was still room for improvement.

** Motshekga said that in line with the National Planning Commission’s recommendations on improving school functionality, her department, working with provinces, would send teams to the 15 districts that performed under 60 percent, including Obanjeni in KZN.

She also said that processes were being finalised to strengthen the accountability levels of principals and their deputies.

*** To obtain a pass, a pupil must achieve 40 percent in his or her home language as well as 40 percent in two others subjects and three subjects at 30 percent.

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