The performance of the matric class of 2020 is expected to drop, but not significantly.
This is according to Chris Klopper, CEO of the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie.
Klopper said they were not expecting a big drop “because, to a large extent, the Grade 12s were able to follow the normal curriculum and, in fact, didn’t really lose any school days or teaching time”.
He said the standardisation of marks under the auspices of Umalusi, the body responsible for the quality assurance of matric exams, would entail comparing this year’s marks with the five-year norms.
The education system has been battling to function properly due to the impact of Covid-19.
Last year, the system recorded a historic matric pass rate of 81.3%, with disadvantaged pupils lauded for their significant contribution to the increase.
This year, however, stakeholders said the pupils could suffer, due to lack of access to online learning materials.
Matakanye Matakanye, spokesperson for the National Association of School Governing Bodies, said matric pupils were in a Catch-22 situation.
He believed that conditions created by the pandemic would cause matric results to decline compared with last year.
However, Anthea Cereseto, national CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, said there had been amazing efforts by schools and pupils to catch up during weekend and extra classes.
“On top of the psychological stress of Covid-19, these pupils have had to battle while preparing for the very high-stakes exams. Those who made it deserve congratulations. [Those who didn’t] must get support and try again,” she said.
Matric pupils who had failed should not be allowed to disappear from the system, stressed Cereseto.
Professional Educators’ Union president Johannes Motona said this had been a particularly difficult academic year.
“Even though the department of basic education launched multiple pupil support initiatives under Covid-19 aimed at limiting the impact of the lockdown on the school calendar, the fact that pupils spent most of their time away from their classes will have a huge effect on their results, particularly those of pupils in disadvantaged communities, who rely mostly on face-to-face contact, rather than other forms of learning, especially digital ones," warned Motona.
"The department must therefore find a way to mitigate the 2020 matric results, as the situation hasn’t been normal. If the results aren’t treated differently, most pupils may not succeed."
IMPACT OF COVID-19
Motona said the school time lost had had a devastating impact on pupils’ education.
“Rural provinces suffered extremely because of a lack of resources to deliver on their educational mandate. The department failed to offer them the resources required in their context. School attendance rates and lost school time are widening the inequality gap in the country," said Motona.
"All the inequalities between rich and poor schools were exacerbated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This resulted in huge educational achievement gaps between the haves and have-nots."
Klopper agreed that Covid-19 had had a profound effect on education. “Schools were disrupted seriously in their responsibilities, as they couldn’t complete the curriculum.
“The reason was that not all the pupils could attend classes on the same day, as schools could never have more than 50% of their capacity at a time,” he said.
He added that schools without the means to utilise an online model had missed a lot.
The assessment of pupils had also had to be adapted, said Klopper – for instance, exams for grades 1 to 11 had not been written, so schools had used control tests to determine whether pupils should advance.
He said the department’s planned multiyear catch-up programme would need to continue until at least the end of 2022.
WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT YEAR
Klopper said everything that comes next depended on government’s lockdown levels for Covid-19.
“If we remain on level 1, schools won’t be able to resume a normal functioning model whereby all pupils attend classes daily, but will have to continue with 50% capacity on alternative days. In that case, we can expect a repeat of this year to a large extent. School sports and other extracurricular activities will find it difficult to train and compete,” he said.
Cereseto said next year would not begin differently.
“What’s important is that pupils get more face-to-face teaching. Sports and other school recreational programmes must start again within Covid-19 safety rules. Children must return to as normal an environment as possible. They need the psychosocial support that they get from being in school with friends and supportive adults. A great many of them also need food,” she said.
Cereseto added that some teachers had learnt how to use electronic devices to teach and give interactive lessons.
“They’ve become better. Some schools will use this blended model. However, the poor will get left behind, in many cases, because their teachers haven’t started using these methods. They think their pupils won’t be able to access electronic lessons due to data costs,” she said.
Motona reiterated that the country’s education system was unequal.
“Schools will still be funded, [but not] according to their needs. This will still affect provisioning of quality education under the Covid-19 pandemic. Many schools will be unable to deliver on their education mandate due to inadequate resources and facilities.
“Furthermore, delivery of curricula online will still be a challenge, because there’s inadequate, if any, infrastructure for doing so. If schools can deliver curricula online, many pupils won’t have the ability to sustainably access them because they don’t have laptops and the costs of data are too high. The current necessity for a shift towards online learning reminds us that, although we live in the same country, we don’t share the same resources,” said Motona.