Picture: Michael Walker/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

It is that time of the year again when matric results become a consuming topic. For a week or so, speculations and analyses of the matric results dominate the headlines. 

Ordinary citizens, academics, educators, politicians and analysts of all types offer their views and interpretations around the matric pass rates. This is good energy spent usefully. This matric buzz, however, always raises some concerns.

Why does the nation focus so much on the matric results and not on the other levels in the schooling system, especially the Foundation Phase?  Are we building the house from the roof down?

Credit goes to the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Motshega, who, during the announcement of the results, showed awareness of this discrepancy and announced plans to invest more resources at lower levels, including Grade R.

It is also in order to commend UMalusi, the Department of Basic Education, educators, learners, and all other stakeholders for the effort put into the matric processes.

Special credit is also due to parents/guardians for supporting their children over the 12 years of schooling. The system, like many others within government, has a lot of room for improvement, especially in addressing long-standing resourcing inequalities.

Another concern is not unique to South Africa. When we say these learners have passed matric, be it Bachelor's, diploma or higher certificate passes, are we saying that they are ready for today’s world or even tomorrow’s world or workplace?

It is often argued that the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the digital economy has transformed the workplace in a manner that has pushed to prominence Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).

Skills that fall under this label include collaboration, communication, creativity and problem-solving. 

These are extremely important in today’s as well as tomorrow’s workplace and higher education environments because they determine how people approach complex challenges.

It is unfortunate that, at face value, the results tell us very little about the acquisition of these important skills and their related character traits like curiosity, initiative, persistence and leadership – amongst others.

Persistence or grit is said to describe “students who approach learning with a long-term focus.”

Such students, while striving to pass well, also put an emphasis on learning; and “view academic difficulties and confusion as speed bumps, not roadblocks to learning." (Lolita Paff, 2016, ‘Enhancing Learning through Zest, Grit and Sweat’ Magna Publications.)

One needs to be an optimist and trust that the class of 2018 has, somewhere along their journey, acquired these traits so that wherever they find themselves (post-school), they will be curious, imaginative and agile lifelong learners.

Since the advent of the so-called free higher education, we, the citizens, are the funders of public education at all levels.

We owe it to ourselves to show interest and actively participate in debates around education. This is not a seasonal event like the Durban July; participation should be throughout the academic year.

Congratulations to all the learners who have made it. It is helpful to remember Madiba’s wise words: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

When people say you have done well, say ‘thank you’ and confidently add: ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.’ To those who did not make it, your success is delayed not written-off.

* Professor Magnate Ntombela is an Academic Exco Advisor at Mancosa (He is writing in his personal capacity)

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.