Johannesburg - While many experts have lauded the achievements of the Matric Class of 2021, they cautioned against the matric results being used as the measure of an effective education system.
Professor Craig Pournara, Director: Wits Maths Connect Secondary Project aimed at teachers, warned that the grade 10 class of 2022 is most in danger as they have had two years of disrupted schooling.
“The problem doesn’t lie in the grade 12 results, it’s the grade 8 and 9 results that are the danger indicators. I do believe that they should focus more on this year’s Grade 10s,” he said.
Pournara said the fact that many Grade 8s and 9s were promoted in the past two years, concerns him.
“I may sound a little bit extreme but that’s the reality. Many of these learners have forgotten what they learnt in primary school and now they are in grade 10,” he said.
The national matric pass rate stands at 76.4%, up from 76.2% in 2020. The Free State is the top performing province with a pass rate of 85.6% followed by Gauteng at 82.8% and the Western Cape in third place at 81.2%. A total of 255 825 candidates obtained a Bachelor’s Pass.
Experts said the results were as expected but agreed that more needed to be done for learners in the lower grades if the grade 12 results are to be used as the ultimate indicator of the South African schooling system..
Former Head of the Wits School of Education and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic Education, Prof Ruksana Osman said the results are were as expected and the good news was that there was no downward turn.
“You cannot expect an under-performing province to suddenly perform. Dramatic shifts don’t usually happen. Also, it’s always a modest decline or a modest improvement. But the system is improving,” she said.
On the improvement in the Eastern Cape’s results, Osman added that other provinces should look at the initiatives put in place that helped with the province’s good showing.
“Right now we are seeing disaggregated data, we will have a clearer picture later and will also see the impact Covid-19 and other variables had on the results,” she said.
Osman agreed with education minister Angie Motshekga that 30% was not the pass rate. Learners are required to achieve a 50% pass in at least five subjects and the remaining two can be in the 30% category. She said stem subjects like Mathematics, Technology and Science needed more work.
“The world of work looks at the results of these important subjects so we need to do more to improve those results. I do believe that politics are at play but we are accepting the pass rate. We have a body like Umalusi which is credible. We have not seen any systematic issues,” she said.
Osman added that more needed to be done for poor households, especially in terms of Early Childhood Development centres, teachers and resources for schools.
“Our system is maturing but we cannot become complacent. We also need to look at school leadership, the provisioning of resources and MEC’s who are accountable. We have seen great work from MECs who are very hands-on. We will never eliminate inequality but we can reduce its effects,” she said.
Education Leadership and Policy Studies Head at the Wits School of Education, Professor Brahm Fleisch said the 2021 matric results were better than most people had anticipated.
“For the past two years we have had disrupted education and the results show that our learners are much more resilient,” he said.
But Fleisch was at pains to stress that the grade 12 results should not be used as an indicator to judge the entire schooling system in SA.
“Children in the lower grades are lagging behind in key areas. In 2019, president Ramaphosa said he wanted children by the age of 10 to be able to read with understanding and that’s still not happening. There is often the misconception that grade 12 is the ultimate indicator of an effective schooling system, it is not,” he said.
On the adjustment of marks, Fleisch said it was important to ensure that students were not unnecessarily prejudiced for something that is beyond their control.
“This has happened even before 1994. If a paper has a difficult section, the adjustment makes sure that learners are not negatively impacted,” he said.
He added that at this stage he had no reason to believe politics were at play in the matric results.
“We have various bodies to ensure the credibility of the results,” he concluded.
As the new academic year got under way there was also concern about some provinces where contact learning was still not happening.
A total of 186 913 candidates enrolled for the 2021 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, which included 132 856 full-time and 42 883 part-time candidates. In addition 11 174 Adult Education and Training (AET) Level 4 candidates also wrote the exam.
The Class of 2021 was the 14th cohort of learners to sit for the NSC qualification, and he eight cohort to be exposed to the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), which was introduced in 2014.
The Class of 2021 entered the formal schooling system in Grade 1 in January 2010 and was the second cohort of candidates to have been subjected to a pandemic of the nature of Covid-19.
The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) registered 989 examination centres that were eligible to administer the 2021 NSC examinations. Of these centres, 668 were public ordinary schools and 229 were independent schools. Centralised marking started on December 9 and concluded on December 22