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Decrease in matric pass rate expected - Annette Lovemore

DA MPL says WCape has highest retention rate, and proportion of bachelor degree passes (Dec 5)

Matric results: expected drop indicates need for systemic change

05 January 2015

It is highly unlikely that the national matric pass rate, to be announced by the Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga, this evening, will be as high as it was for the class of 2013. A substantial drop in the pass rate is probable.

There are three factors that distinguish the matric class of 2014 from classes in previous years:

1. This was the first exam based on the new CAPS (Curriculum and Policy Statement) curriculum. In many cases subject content has changed as has the design of exam papers to accommodate the changes to the curricula. The DA believes that there are two important reasons why the CAPS curriculum will lead to short-term drop in the pass rate:

The department has not provided learners with adequate support to deal with the new curriculum and this will most likely be reflected by a decrease in the matric pass rate. To have any value, the new curriculum must be more academically rigorous than the previous curriculum. Many pointers, such as national and international literacy and numeracy assessments, and the low rate of success of students at universities, indicate a schooling system that was not providing adequate education. Without adequate support, many learners would struggle with the new curriculum and be prone to failure. 

For the CAPS curriculum to have been successfully taught, every teacher should have been equipped to understand every aspect of the new design. This required training has not been done and learning outcomes are therefore very likely to have suffered as a result.

2. Language condonation is a practice whereby those learners who write their matric exams in a language other than their home language were granted a compensation of 5% in 2013 and 4% in 2014 in non-language subjects. This year, Umalusi, the body responsible for quality assurance and for overseeing the process of examination and certification, was determined to scrap the compensation completely, believing that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has had ample time to ensure language competence. The DBE protested, and, ultimately, the compensation was reduced to 4%. This is applicable to approximately 80% of learners writing matric. When most of these learners pass at a level very close to failure, this reduction in compensation becomes potentially critical. 

3. For many years, the practice of culling has been widespread and entrenched. In terms of this practice, weak learners in Grade 11 have not been allowed to advance to Grade 12, and thus from writing the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exam, out of fear that these weak learners would negatively affect school, district and provincial pass rates.

Learners have been retained in Grade 11 for up to 4 years, and many, of course, dropped out of the schooling system as a result. (It must be noted that the provinces with the highest reported pass rates in 2013, the Free State and the North West, also had the highest culling rates, losing 55% and 56% of learners respectively in the two years before matric.) For the first time, in 2013, learners in Grade 11, who had failed Grade 10, were "progressed" to Grade 12, whether or not their academic achievements merited this progression. Many more learners, who were not equipped to succeed in the matric exams nevertheless became eligible to write the exams, who will in all likely hood, fail.

In the DA run Western Cape, there has been a big focus on the quality of education, and giving learners the best chance of success by retaining them in the system, rather than culling to inflate pass rates and make the numbers look good. It is for this reason that the province has seen improvements in the rate of retention over the past five years, achieving the highest retention rate in the country in 2014. The bottom line is that the practice of culling denies learners the opportunity for success later in life that comes with a strong educational foundation.

Umalusi has announced that the mathematics pass rate has dropped by about 5%, and the physics pass rate by about the same amount. The maths literacy pass rate has "inexplicably" dropped by about 25%. The English Home Language and First Additional Language marks are lower than in 2013. Prof John Volmink, the chairman of Umalusi, has predicted a drop in the national matric pass rate of between 3 and 5%.

Given the above, we expect a substantial decrease in the matric pass rate.

A lower matric pass rate would certainly be more accurate and aligned with the results of other assessments, such as those performed to test literacy and numeracy skills. 

A lower matric pass rate should signal that current teaching is not working; for a very high percentage of learners, it is simply not translating into learning. The DBE must surely be propelled into action by this scenario.

However, every learner who fails to make the grade must be actively supported to follow opportunities available to them, including possibly writing supplementary exams. This focussed support has not been a strong point of the DBE; it is time for them to step up, and ensure that access to education is continued beyond a first attempt at matric, wherever necessary. 

We trust that Minister Motshekga's announcement of the 2014 results will reflect the real situation, and that the real situation is then urgently addressed.

Update:

Matric results: More needs to be done to ensure quality education for all

05 January 2015

The Democratic Alliance warmly congratulates the matric class of 2014 and those who have excelled. We also encourage all unsuccessful learners qualifying for supplementary exams to make the best possible use of this opportunity.

The DA notes Minister Motshekga's announcement this evening of a drop in the matric pass rate, from 78.3% in 2013 to 75.8% this year. 

The matric results once again demonstrate that there is an urgent need for a single-minded focus on improving the quality of our education system.

A good educational foundation remains central to a child's success in life.

We must be mindful that the urgent interventions required to improve educational outcomes must go beyond the pass rate numbers to the heart of the problem: the quality of education our learners receive.

Two crucial indicators of quality that must be taken into account in assessing these results are the retention rate (learners starting Grade 10 in 2012 who wrote the NSC this year), and the proportion of bachelor's degree passes achieved.

To this end, important progress has been made in the DA-governed Western Cape, where the highest retention rate (63.8%) and proportion of bachelor degree passes (38.8%) in the country was achieved. While there is still much work that needs to be done in order to build on these successes, we are heartened nevertheless by the province's upward trajectory on these indicators.

There can be no substitute for an intense focus on supporting learners and ensuring quality teaching. Major emphasis needs to be placed countrywide on supporting learners through mentoring programmes, after-school programmes, the delivery of additional textbooks, and the rollout of technology to public schools. 

The DA will provide further commentary on the 2014 matric results once the full statistics from the provinces are known.

Statements issued by Annette Lovemore MP, DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, December 5 2014

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