Matric looms

2008-09-01 00:00

As winter turns to spring, so in schools across the country the countdown to the final matric examination has begun in earnest. Whether to enter the job market directly or to continue into tertiary training and education, a youngster needs a creditable pass. Conversely, failure can be sadly disempowering, for both the individual and society at large. This country needs soundly taught, skilled and capable people and cannot afford to waste the potential of its youth.

The recent decline in the pass rate is a cause for serious concern. The government has gone to great lengths to revise and restructure the whole school curriculum and to introduce more effective teaching and learning methodologies, but if the objective was to produce larger numbers of better-prepared school leavers, these changes seem not to have worked.

This downward trend must be reversed. Assuming that the curriculum itself is not flawed (and this can be debated), three agencies have key roles to play. There are the parents who can create a home environment conducive to learning and contribute to schooling through organised parent bodies. There are the schools, some of which serve their pupils admirably while others perform abysmally. Much here depends on the professionalism and commitment of principals and teachers, and school governing bodies can reinforce the efforts of the education departments to hold their staff to account. Thirdly there are the national and provincial education departments, whose multiple activities all boil down to this: facilitating effective work in the classrooms.

To turn things around, all three need to play their part. Not for the first time, however, it seems that the departmental bureaucrats are among the weakest links in the system. At a moment when teachers and pupils should be using trial examinations to fine-tune the last phase of their matric preparations, schools and teacher unions are complaining that important study guidelines, crucially needed for the first public examination in a new format, have not been delivered. When results are bad it is the youngsters who suffer and the schools that are often blamed, but perhaps the dunce’s cap really belongs in head office.

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