Durban - A Grade 9 school-leaving certificate is set to be introduced in South Africa, to offer pupils a path other than matric and university.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Wednesday that the new school exit certificate was being developed to benefit pupils who battled with traditional academic requirements.
Introducing a school-leaving certificate in Grade 9 was one of the major changes to the South African schooling system recommended by the high-level task team which last year released a report that evaluated the standard and credibility of the National Senior Certificate.
Motshekga, who was speaking on Wednesday ahead of the tabling of her R21-billion 2015/16 budget in the National Assembly, remarked that a Grade 9 school exit certificate would address unemployment and the country’s skills shortages.
With what would be called a General Education and Training Certificate, Grade 9 school leavers would then go on to study at a Technical Vocational Education and Training college.
Educationists who are in support of introducing the General Education and Training Certificate have emphasised the importance of a credible exam that would win the confidence of prospective employers, parents and pupils.
Such an exam would have to be standardised nationally. Motshekga’s department could not say when the plan would be implemented.
Once a draft discussion had been compiled, it would need to be considered by key players including the Higher Education Department, exam quality watchdog Umalusi, the Council on Higher Education, and the South African Qualifications Authority. A final document would then have to be put to the various education MECs before it could be published in the Government Gazette for public comment.
The report of the ministerial task team which recommended that a Grade 9 school-leaving certificate be introduced, argued that an alternative path for pupils who were unable or unwilling to finish Grade 12 was “long overdue”.
The report cited the high drop-out rate of pupils in Grades 10, 11 and 12.
“Much more needs to be done actively to direct those learners who drop out or are at risk of dropping out of the schooling system on to an alternative pathway towards a technical, vocational or artisan career.”
The ministerial task team was concerned that pupils who left school without a matric certificate had no record of their achievements other than their school report cards, which were not credible documents.
The task team argued that the stigma of leaving school before matric and getting a job, or enrolling at a higher education institution other than a university, would be diminished by introducing an exit certificate for Grade 9s.
The Governing Body Foundation, an association of school governing bodies, has been strongly supportive of such a move.
The head of the foundation, Tim Gordon, said on Wednesday that it was “delighted” with Motshekga’s announcement.
“From this, what we hope to see realised is another credible exit point which people believe has value. There must be confidence that pupils with this exit certificate are able to read, write and reckon at a certain standard.”
Basil Manuel, the president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), said that introducing the new exit certificate had been on the cards for a long time, and had always enjoyed Naptosa’s support.