What is this Obsession with Matric?!

What is this obsession with Matric?!

In January this year, Lumka Elephant, spokeswoman for the Gauteng Department of Social Development, said that many children have run away because they were ashamed to face fellow students and their parents after failing matric. We even read about a pupil who committed suicide. 
Your distance aunt who is now well over sixty years old, is still ashamed because she never finished her matric. Even though she had to leave school and get a job to help support her family - something she and her family should be proud of. This story has not changed in the past 50 years.

Maybe if we keep the results secret, the ones who fail will feel better?

This year, for the first time, the names of matriculants were not published. Only the student's exam number and results were published.
As if that prevented parents and fellow students from finding out who got an "A", and who failed! Nope, that did not work. If you had a child in Matric last year, you know what I am talking about.

The Numbers that most people ignores

Over 50% of kids who start school in South Africa, will never sit in a Matric Class. They are failed out of the school system before they get to Grade 12.
So when you look at the number of students who wrote matric, remember that number is only half of the kids who actually started school.
Last year nearly 800 000 students wrote matric. So 1,6 million kids should have written matric... but half of them "disappeared" before getting to matric.
About 18% of the kids who wrote matric were able to get a place at a University. 
According to the ministry of education — 100 students enter school, 40 make it through to the matric exams, 28 pass matric, four enter higher education, and just one graduates.
One student gets a degree. 
99 Students are left to do... what? Get a job?

We are obsessed with getting a Matric, even though most people don't achieve a Matric, and a Matric does not lead to any job

Most kids going to school will not get a matric. And those who get a matric will find that it does not lead to a job. It does not prepare you for a job.
That kid who dropped out of school in Grade 9, and did a short course in Bookkeeping, can find a job. You with your matric "Bachelors Studies" pass? Not so much.

There are also other reasons why we have an obsession with Matric

Most people recognise that those who do best in our society, are the people with the most privilege. And having money, having a degree, being well-connected... these things are all signs that you are privileged.
So those of us without a degree, will try and get a degree; or try to help our children get a degree, because we can see the connection between a university degree and financial success and social success.

Matric is not a qualification...

If a Qualification is something that gets you a job, or even just an interview... then Matric is not a Qualification.
If a Qualification is something that gives you skills and knowledge that you can use to do a specific job, then Matric is not a Qualification.
Matric is an Entrance Test. If you pass it well, then you get accepted to further studies at a University. If you fail your entrance test... well, the studying for that test did not teach you skills or knowledge for any specific job.
A short course in bookkeeping teaches your skills you can use to do a job. A course in Pet Grooming teaches you skills and knowledge you can use to do a job.
The idea that any kind of Matric leads to a job, is false. When we give scholars the impression that their Matric will help them get a job, we are not telling them the truth.

Your Matric Pass, without Maths and Science is not worth much

To study a Technical Qualification, after matric, requires that you achieved 50% or more for Maths and for Science. Technical qualifications are not a "soft" option. They require as much a good Matric Certificate, as going to University.
There was a drop of 17% in the number of scholars who wrote mathematics between 2009 and 2013. At the same time, the number of candidates writing mathematics literacy rose to 58% of the 2013 cohort.

The number of scholars who wrote physical science has fallen by 17% over the same period. The number of scholars who are achieving a Matric pass with more than 40% in mathematics has been falling over the same period to 17% of the class of 2013. These numbers has since improved slightly.
If you struggle with Maths or Science at school, you are dropped to Mathematical Literacy... the older readers will remember "Maths Lower Grade"... same thing. 
I don't think anyone is explaining to these kids that with Mathematical Literacy they will not go to University, and they will not be accepted for any Technical Studies. No, you won't be accepted to study for a Plumber, or Electrician. You need real maths for that.
Engineering, Law, Accounting, Teaching... these careers all require you to pass Real Maths at Matric level.

Going to University? How you gonna pay?

University studies will cost your R50 000 per year or more. You can approach the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for help; if you qualify. Nope, they don't have enough money to pay for everyone. Yes, we all want free education. 

Got into a University? Congratulations - now see if you can pass your First Year...

Of the 18% of matriculant that get a space at a University, between 50% and 60% will fail their first year. This is according to Dr. Andre van Zyl, the director of the University of Johannesburg’s Academic Development Centre; and head of the South African National Resource Centre for First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
Only about one third of the students who qualify to go to University, are ready to cope with the University's academic literacy requirements. That means they will not be able to cope with the reading, understanding and writing required to pass their chosen degree. Which goes towards explaining why 50% to 60% of first year university students drop out and fail.
And more than 50% of students who get access to a University, will need "extended or additional academic support to succeed".

If you are Black or Poor, you fare even worse in Matric

The 2016 South African Survey by the SA Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) has noted "deep-seated racial and social inequalities" in South Africa's matric results. 

Only 35% of matric candidates who wrote Mathematics in 2014 achieved a grade of 40% or above.

But, according to the SAIRR: "When the data was broken down by race group, it became apparent that 83% of white candidates obtained a grade of 40% and above as opposed to 69.7% of Indian candidates, 46.3% of coloured candidates, and just 28.5% of African candidates."

The IRR report also look at levels of educational achievement by living standards. "In the poorest 20% of the population, only 5.9% of candidates passed mathematics in matric with a grade of 60% of higher. In the wealthiest 20%, the figure was 23.3%."

Will I get a job with my Matric Certificate?

Nope. Matric does not prepare you for a job. And it does not teach you how to look for a job. We have 40% unemployment - maybe even more. 

Will I not get a job because I failed Matric?

You will not get a job because we have 40% unemployment. So you don't have a chance. 

If you have some real skills, some real experience, then you are employable.

What does 40% unemployment mean?

In the Great Depression (1930s) unemployment in the USA went up to 25%. In some other countries it went as high as 33%. So 40% unemployment is extreme. It is a disaster. And we have even higher unemployment amongst the youth.

High unemployment also means that if you leave school, then you not only compete with other school-leavers for a job. You also compete against all the other adults out there who are looking for a job.

Final Thoughts

Chasing a Matric Certificate, especially a Matric Certificate with a Bachelor Studies pass, is chasing a ghost. It is a waste of time for 99% of kids who go to school. A Matric Certificate will not get a job for the 99%. And it will not get you to a degree if you are in the 99%.

About the Author

Jan Badenhorst has been involved in private home study institutions since 1992. He is the Founder of College SA, as well as Skills Academy and the Home Study Group. Currently my focus is Skills Academy, as well as the Home Study Group.

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