Cape Town - Despite enormous challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, the matric class of 2021 recorded an increased pass rate, and experts said the quality of the passes should be respected.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Thursday that the 2021 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination results stood at 76.4%, an improvement of 0.2% from 2020.
Many expected a dip in the pass rate and that has not happened. Questions have been raised about the quality of the results.
Education expert Mary Metcalfe, senior research associate at the University of Johannesburg said the results should not be questioned.
"They are quality assured by Umalusi. Umalusi serves the public by looking at the standards and quality of the NSC every year to ensure that the quality of the passes and the value attached to them are consistent. The challenges of Covid have been enormous, but the quality of the passes have to be respected to be equivalent to any other year," she said.
The class of 2021 and the one before them could not fully attend classes due to disruptions by Covid-19. Schools had to and are still operating on a rotational basis to meet the 1-metre rule by the government. This means that more learning time is lost, the department had to trim the curriculum to fit the challenges prevented by Covid-19.
“I would love to see the National Corona Command Council lift the 1-metre distance restriction. It prevents schools that cannot meet the rule from opening fully. I think our understanding of science has changed, younger people are less at risk of becoming seriously ill. We know that adults are able to get vaccinated. There is now a high level of immunity from vaccines and infections,” said Metcalfe.
Dr Belinda Huntley, the chair of the Advisory Committee for Mathematics (ACM) at the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) said she was concerned that the DBE kept the curriculum unchanged, despite reduced time in the classroom having a negative effect on learners.
Last year, DBE trimmed the curriculum and revised the Annual Teaching Plan (ATP).
“But, because the DBE based these ATPs on a normal school year, grades 4 to 9 covered only 50-60% of the curriculum in 2020, and similarly in 2021.
“In November 2021, the DBE discussed adjusted ATPs for 2022, however, they decided to keep the 2021 ATPs unchanged,” said Huntley.
She said these unchanged ATPs raises concern about how the DBE assess the learners’ progress and standard, especially in mathematics.
“There will be learners progressing to the next grade with huge gaps. It is crucial for the DBE to respond to the learning losses, especially in the entry grades of phases, which are grades 3, 6 and 9,” she said.
The DA is taking DBE to court to force them to fully open schools.