Matric results lauded, but ‘focus on maths’ is key
Speaking to the Pretoria News, Professor Kobus Maree from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Educational Psychology, said there were many reasons for the highest pass rate since those in the new democratic dispensation, such as students and teachers were now accustomed to the system. However, he said the worrying factor was the structural challenges and lack of achievement in poor areas, especially in maths, which he described as woefully lacking.
“Everybody should stop boasting and be concerned about what is going on with the dwindling numbers taking up mathematics; we really need improvement in that regard.”
He also alluded to the lower number of learners who make it to matric. “It is unacceptable and we should be concerned as to why we have a large number coming in to schools in Grade 8 but fewer make it to Grade 12.”
Maree said resource-scarce areas were the ones suffering the most.
“I have repeatedly recommended that teachers do two years of community service in township and rural areas as that would beef up and place expertise where they are really needed.
We need a large cohort of people to enter these areas so we have more learners taking up maths and physical science and passing them, otherwise we won’t be able to drive the economy in the way we should,” said Maree.
University of Pretoria Dean of Education Chika Seehole said: “It is a big system and, the government is trying its best I wouldn't say it's enough in terms of shifting resources to areas that need them; we can do that but people with the right attitude are needed to help those children and use the resources to get a desired outcome.”
He said some of the best performing schools were in the rural areas, and they could be learnt from and the same methods implemented in struggling areas.
“There are improvements such as the expansion of the curriculum with subjects such as mechanical technology and electrical technology, among others, being introduced across the board, producing a crop of learners showing a diverse knowledge base is being created.”
Seehole said a holistic approach was needed to address learners avoiding doing maths.
“More must be done to encourage learners to take subjects such as maths and physical science. In light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution we need those sort of subjects. It is unacceptable to have a drop in learners passing maths.”
Reacting to the results, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa)said: “The number of pupils achieving Bachelor degree exemptions has increased to 186058 in 2019 from 172043 in 2018. This is in itself a welcome improvement, given the important role played by tertiary education in scarce skills training and the 4th Industrial Revolution requirements.
“There was no indication of what the target was, nor what interventions had been put in place to achieve that target given past experiences showing that the lack of properly trained teachers, especially in the critical areas of mathematics and science, was one of the main contributing factors.”
Fedusa said it would have been useful to explicitly compare the number of pupils who had enrolled in Grade 1 in 2008 compared to those who had progressed through the system to finally write matric exams in 2019.
“Such a comparison is of paramount importance as the high number of young people who drop out along the way - nearly 400000 in the previous year - only adds to the youth unemployment crisis ravaging the country.”
Fedusa insisted that late textbook deliveries; lack of electricity, running water; and lack of sanitation did not persist.
DA spokesperson for basic education Nomsa Marchesi congratulated learners who passed but said the Department of Education was celebrating an all-time high matric pass rate of 81.3%.
This was not the real pass rate - the real pass rate was 38.9%.
“In 2017, 1052080 learners were enrolled in Grade 10, yet only 409906 learners eventually passed matric last year. This means only 38.9% of Grade 10 learners actually wrote and passed matric. The slow poison of drop-out rates between grades 10 and 12 is eating away at the future of our youth,” said Marchesi.