Grade 9, the new matric? The good, the bad and the ugly

These school leavers will be able to start businesses earlier and those with an entrepreneurial mindset could do well.
These school leavers will be able to start businesses earlier and those with an entrepreneurial mindset could do well.

South African Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, has unveiled a plan to let learners leave school at Grade 9, equipped with a General Education Certificate (GEC).

In her speech at the SADTU National Congress in Johannesburg this week, she described the eleven focus areas of the 2019 to 2024 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). 

Priority 4 aims to deal "decisively with the quality and efficiency through the implementation of standardised assessments to reduce failure, repetition, and drop-out rates," she said. 

"We are also working on the introduction of multiple qualifications such as the General Education Certificate before the Grade 12 exit qualification," she explained.

Motshekga revealed that the Department of Basic Education has developed a draft framework for the GEC and that "assessment and examination modalities for the GEC are being investigated and have been presented at the HEDCOM meeting" adding that "the Technical Occupational subjects have been packaged and submitted to Umalusi for approval."

The first cycle of Systemic Evaluation in Grades 3, 6 and 9 will be finalised by June 2020, she announced, and the Field Trial for the GEC at the end of Grade 9 is scheduled for completion at the end of July 2020.

What do parents and experts think of this development?

We rounded up the most common opinions of parents, caregivers and educators and unpacked them here:

The good

Many have expressed the opinion that not every child is an academic, and that not everyone can make it into an office job.

For some children the option of going to a trade school after Grade 9, and spending three years learning skills, is much better than struggling through to matric and only then starting to learn a trade.

These school leavers will be able to start businesses earlier and those with an entrepreneurial mindset could do well, suggested some.

The bad

Others are concerned that there is nowhere for these kids to go once they’ve finished Grade 9. A shortage of trade schools and a lack of skills and jobs could result in an even higher unemployment rate, and more kids on the streets.

Some pointed out that a matric certificate is a requirement for almost every job, and entrepreneurs need capital to start up a business, so these children will struggle to make something of themselves.

The ugly

Still more suggest that the government is implementing this without input from parents and educators, solely to make the matric pass rate look better.

Several pointed out that these new school leavers will be aged between 15 and 17, asking "what does a 15 year old know?"

When so many job seekers with just a matric certificate are unemployable, and university graduates needing experience to be employed, how will a school leaver with a GEC find work, except as a general labourer?

Others raised concerns that more young people out of school, and out of work, will put more of a burden on the government grant system.

The stats

In her speech, Motshekga said that school drop-out begins to occur amongst 16 to 18 year-olds, where the school participation rate is about 86%. She added that numbers have been stabilising in recent years.

She also described that the matric pass rate has climbed substantially over the past 24 years from "a low base of 53.4% in 1994 to the high of 78.2% in 2018."

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