Cape Town - Should the 30 percent matric pass requirement, often slated as being too low, be increased?
That’s the question being asked by a committee set up by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.
Adverts had been placed in newspapers calling for the public to comment on the “promotion requirements and other related matters that impact on the standard of the National Senior Certificate” (NSC).
Motshekga decided in October to establish a ministerial committee to probe the standard of the final exams following widespread criticism of poor results and apparent low standards.
To pass matric, a Grade 12 pupil needs to achieve 30 percent in three subjects and 40 percent in another three, including their home language.
The advert read: “Since the approval of the National Curriculum Statement Grades 10 to 12 in 2005, concerns have been expressed about the apparently low promotion requirements of the National Senior Certificate qualification. Given the centrality of the National Senior Certificate qualification in the schooling system, the minister appointed a… committee to investigate the… requirements.”
The committee would not focus only on the pass requirements, but would research the other two main components of the NSC – programme requirements and assessment.
On programme requirements, the committee would look at whether:
- The NSC, a general academic qualification, should be broadened to include a vocation pathway.
- Pupils having to choose between maths and maths literacy was the best option in preparing pupils for the workplace and higher education.
- A third level of maths should be introduced.
- Life orientation added value as a subject and whether there should be exams on it.
- A pass requirement of 30 percent in pupils’ language of learning and teaching was realistic in expecting success in tertiary studies or work.
The committee would also investigate the quality and standard of pupils’ school-based assessment, which made up 25 percent of their final pass mark.
Education experts have hailed the investigation as a move in the right direction, but have questioned whether increasing the matric pass mark would result in a true improvement in quality.
They have argued that the education system as a whole would need to be improved.
The Governing Body Foundation “very strongly” supported the committee’s work, its chief executive, Tim Gordon, said. He said the committee’s work would have little impact if the matric pass mark was merely increased from 30 percent without other changes, including improvements in teaching, pupils’ understanding and language.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union’s general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, welcomed the review, but said there would be reason to celebrate only when the quality of the pass and the number of pupils who had access to university study had increased.
Announcing the results in January, Motshekga said “almost 98 percent don’t pass” with 30 percent.