Durban - Should Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announce on Wednesday evening that the Grade 12 pass rate in KwaZulu-Natal has improved by even half a percent, provincial education department head Nkosinathi Sishi has vowed to throw “a big party”.
Speaking last week, four days before Motshekga’s release of the national and provincial matric results, Sishi was conservative in his estimate of how the class of 2012 performed.
He was also disapproving of how some of the province’s top performing schools sacrificed “holistic” teaching to instead “drill” Grade 12 pupils so they could achieve good results.
“You can pass three weeks of exams, but still fail matric,” he said. This happened when the total skills a matric pupil needed for university was skipped over when a school opted for a short-cut to push up exam marks.
Despite the department introducing a slew of initiatives during the past year to raise the education bar, Sishi erred on the side of caution when asked how KZN’s class of 2012 was likely to fare.
These interventions included winter classes for pupils, a boot camp for teachers, the forming of committees of subject specialists, and mid-year tests for the weakest 600 schools in the province.
However, the optimism displayed by the HOD when these programmes were launched has been dampened by a lack of implementation on the ground.
“A number of disappointing things have happened towards the end of the year… sitting here I’ve seen some positives and some negatives. I have visited schools where learners were taught by teachers who were not trained in (their specific) subject areas.”
Sishi found some schools had not taught the entire curriculum by the October deadline, despite almost all of them reporting that they had done so.
And, while some had abided by the deadline, the quality of teaching had been poor.
He has not forgotten the sting of the dip in the 2011 Grade 12 pass rate, from 70.7 percent in 2010, to 68 percent.
“We dared to say our target for this year is 68 percent, because we know we can’t go lower than that. If it does, something is not on. We really have worked hard.”
For the pass rate to stay at 68 percent would be good, but an increase of 0.5 percent and more would warrant a celebration, Sishi said.
When asked about his expectations of the pass rate in key subjects such as maths and science, Sishi said it would “take time” to achieve a major turnaround, and any improvements would be “incremental”.