While KwaZulu-Natal parents fight the provincial Education Department for struggling Grade 12s to be able to drop core maths in favour of maths literacy, some education experts are warning that pupils do so to their detriment.

The concern is that the dwindling number of pupils who are tackling core maths means fewer school leavers are able to pursue careers in engineering, medicine and economics.

It is also being suggested that schools encourage the switch in order to push up their matric pass rate.

However, the south Durban arm of the KZN Parents Association believe pupils who were failing core maths in Grade 11 should have the option of changing to maths literacy – which is considered easier – in Grade 12.

According to national policy, pupils may in “exceptional cases” apply for one subject change in Grade 12, provided they do so before January 31 of their Grade 12 year.

The application must be accompanied by a letter of motivation from parents, the principal and the subject teacher.

Last week, the chairman of the association’s south Durban branch Vee Gani, said that parents and schools had come to him, aggrieved that the department had rejected a number of applications in the uMlazi district.

According to documentation seen by The Mercury, the department turned down 16 schools in this district, who had all requested that at least 10 of their matrics drop core maths in favour of maths literacy.

Gani said while applica- tions had for years been approved with no problems, the department had done an about-turn in February.

Gani’s argument is that a pupil who was getting 20 percent for core maths was not going to pursue a career in a maths-related field.

However head of department Nkosinathi Sishi is adamant that poor performance in core maths was not a valid reason for wanting to swop to maths literacy.

Sishi said rather than opt out of doing maths, pupils should study harder or better teachers should be sourced.

He said schools often pushed for pupils to drop core maths to earn better matric pass rates.

Renuka Vithal, the deputy vice-chancellor of teaching and learning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said dropping core maths was short-sighted, and pupils should consider what they would be able to do with their matric pass rather than just aiming to pass.

“The implications are quite serious, it’s really not advisable,” she said.

Vithal said very few degrees did not require core maths.

She suggested pupils should stick with the subject and try to improve their marks via courses offered by universities.

The number of matrics who passed with core maths as a subject had decreased since 2008, and this was worrying, he added.