NEWS & ANALYSIS

Decline in matric pass rate not surprising – SADTU

Union says Covid-19 disrupted the academic year and matriculants deserve our praise for enduring challenging year

SADTU statement on matric results

22 February 2021

The South African Democratic TeachersUnion (SADTU) welcomes the 2020 National Senior Certificate (Matric) results. The decline in the pass rate, compared to the 2019s 81,3%, does not come as a surprise following the disruptions experienced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Class deserves our outmost praise for enduring the most challenging year.

SADTU commends all the stakeholders, more especially the teachers and learners who gave their all to prepare and write this crucial examination under difficult conditions. We are however aware that some learners withdrew from their studies and therefore did not write the examination due COVID-19 fears.

More praise goes to the rural, township and no-fee paying schools for attaining the most quality passes – a continuing trend. These schools who suffer due to lack of resources were the hardest hit by COVID-19 as they had little or no access to blended learning opportunities and therefore could not continue learning from home during lockdown. When schools eventually opened, learners from these schools could not easily adjust to the new COVID-19 environment as their schools could not meet all the COVID-19 protocols.

As we commend the continuous improvement of results in these schools, we are fully aware of the fact that this has come at a huge prize. Teachers had to conduct catch up lessons over weekends, holidays, early mornings and late afternoons to teach and prepare the matric class for these examinations. However, going an extra mile has become a norm for teachers and learners in these schools as they have to compensate for the inadequate resources they have. The current post provisioning model puts learners in poorer communities at a disadvantage. We therefore call for an equitable funding formula so that we can see poorer schools receiving more resources. Individual school needs should be taken into account when budgeting.

As we commend the results, we are however concerned with the continuous decline in the number of learners who take critical subjects like Mathematics, Physical Science and Life Sciences. As numbers decrease, we are equally disappointed with the low pass rate in these subjects. We believe this situation could be turned around if the department increased investment in the foundation phase and early childhood development phases. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) 2019 conducted at the Grade 5 level showed that 37% of learners demonstrated that they acquired basic mathematic knowledge and 28% demonstrated that they acquired basic science knowledge.
Science achievement is lower than mathematics achievement, and there is higher variation in science ability levels. Numeracy learning starts from Grade 1, while the Natural Science and Technology learning is introduced in Grade 4. The lower science scores is more apparent in the more disadvantaged schools and provinces, and suggests that additional challenges such as the language of instruction, resources for teaching science and educator may have an impact on the teaching and learning of science.

We reiterate our call for the results not to be made a contest among the provinces. The uneven performance among the provinces has nothing to do with the learners and the quality of teaching but is all has to do with the uneven distribution of resources.

In conclusion:

As we began the 2021 under the cloud of Lockdown Adjusted Level 3, it is not easy to tell how the year will pan out. Millions of rands were spent to procure PPEs and we think this is likely to continue this year. We therefore call on the Government to provide a stimulus package for education to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic and also provide resources in the poorly resourced schools. We can longer continue to normalise the situation of disparities that exist in our schooling system as it, in the long run, adversely affects the teachers as well as the learners who have to work overtime in order to achieve the results that can allow these learners to pursue tertiary education.

We call on the learners who did not make it not to give up but to embrace the situation because they managed to reach Grade12, this should motivate them to register for the second chance programme.

It is time to deal with orthodoxies of the taught curriculum as part of the decolonisation of education. A country rich in mineral resources cannot continue with these inequalities in education. The illicit flow of billions from our country must be stopped so that education can be equitable and accessible to all. The right to education must mean access to all resources that make learning possible. It must mean access to data, blended learning, libraries and laboratories so that the 21st century skills can be acquired.

Issued by Nomusa Cembi, Media Officer, SADTU, 23 February 2021