Matric results 101: The academic perspective

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pretoria - The 2009 matric results have prompted education analysts to call on the Department of Basic Education and all stakeholders to work together in improving what many have called "a shocking and dismal" pass rate.

The national pass rate of the National Senior Certificate examinations for 2009 was 60.6 percent - a drop from the 2008 pass rate by 2 percent.

Minister for Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, agreed last week that the education system continued to be plagued by obvious weaknesses. She said urgent steps needed to be taken to address the performance of the system which impacts greatly on the performance of the country's learners.

University of Johannesburg academic, Professor Sarah Gravett, who specializes in Teacher Education, School Education and Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, said while there was no quick fix to improving matric results in 2010, it was important to give matric learners "maximum support".

"There's definitely no quick fix," she said. "I would be worried if matric results jumped upwards dramatically; it's not possible. It will take a few years for matric results to improve and for the system to stabilise."

Professor Gravett said the problem did not lie only with matrics, but the higher failure rate was a reflection of the 12 years of schooling. She did however applaud the department for realizing that greater emphasis was needed to improve schooling in the early years.

"It's important to give matrics maximum support this year by either having winter classes and extra lessons. It's also important to give support to learners from as early as grade 10, in that way we can see an improvement when they reach their matric year," she said.

Professor Gravett said an upward trend could likely be seen in the next five to six years. "We need to look at the bigger picture," she said.

"There were many problems in the implementation of the new school curriculum. One is worried but we shouldn't have expected the system to have stabilised so soon. One should expect some sort of fluctuation at this time," she added.

She said that while learners needed support, teachers, who do not have knowledge of the subject they were teaching, also needed extensive training and support.

She said: "There needs to be very good text books in the classrooms and there needs to be support for teachers to help them interpret those text books. They need to be supported in subject knowledge especially in maths, science and accounting."

Director of the Centre for Education Policy Development, Dr Martin Prew, said the department needed to focus on a small number of critical priorities before there could be a vast improvement.