File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Concern at drop in maths, physical science matric results

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Feb 23, 2021

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Cape Town – Education experts have expressed concern over the performance of the 2020 matric class in physical sciences and maths, despite the commendable overall quality of passes.

Physical sciences saw a drastic drop in the pass rate from 75.5% in 2019 to 65.8% in 2020, while the number of candidates passing maths declined from 54.6% to 53.8%.

National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) president Nkosiphendule Ntantala said the drop of more than 15 000 candidates that enrolled for pure maths was disturbing.

“Naptosa believes too many learners are allowed to stop taking pure maths in Grade10 in favour of math literacy. Is this about schools and PEDs (provincial education departments) chasing the 100% pass rate?

’’What then about the life chances of these learners or even the future needs of the country? It's important learners be given the maximum assistance to continue taking pure maths till Grade 12.”

Ntantala said lessons learned in 2020 must serve to improve school in 2021 and beyond.

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta appealed to keep in mind the challenges the class of 2020 faced in admission to tertiary education.

“The impact of having such low pass rates in subjects such as physical sciences and maths will have an effect on the scores of learners when enrolling in universities. Some might not meet the academic requirements.

’’They might also experience some difficulties during their studies due to school disruptions, so universities will have to offer extra tuition.”

Equal Education researcher Stacey Jacobs meanwhile commended quintile 1 to 3 learners who obtained Bachelor passes. Quintile 1 is the group of schools in each province catering for the poorest 20% of learners. Quintile 2 schools cater for the next poorest 20% and so on.

“These are learners who experienced a lot of difficulties even prior to Covid-19. In a survey we conducted last year most of them spoke about the challenges of food and security, homes not being conducive for learning as some have a lot of family members. In other cases, there were issues to access study materials and support,” said Jacobs.

Basic Education Department director-general Mathanzima Mweli said 2020 school disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic affected relative performance across subjects.

“Subjects which rely to a high degree on contact teaching, and perhaps the use of equipment in the classroom, would have suffered most.

“Subjects which lend themselves to more independent studying by learners would have fared better.

“What is already clear from the 2020 data, is that learners performed relatively well in maths, and relatively poorly in physical sciences. This could have been because of this.”

Cape Times

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