Matric Results: Is SA Education Healthy?

2014 was the first year that the (National Senior Certificate) NSC examination was based on the national Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). The pass-rate declined by 2.4% to 75.8%.  KwaZulu-Natal suffered the largest decline of 7.7%, with the Free State, the Western Cape, Gauteng and the North West also showing a decline in passes.

Only 48% of children who began school in 2003 wrote the NSC in 2014 and of these only 36% passed.

Catholic schools have a proud and long tradition of providing education of high quality. This is most often reflected in the achievement of matriculants in the NSC examinations as the matric pass rate for Catholic schools is continually above the national average.

In 2014, 1613 Learners from Catholic schools wrote the IEB (Independent Examinations Board) examination obtaining a 99.32% pass with 88.03% receiving Bachelors passes. These young people achieved 2319 distinctions. It is interesting to note that 63% of pupils in Catholic IEB schools took Mathematics as a subject and 53% took Science.

Many Catholic schools are located in rural and semi-urban areas and wrote the state exams. Catholic school learners were also among the top achievers in these exams. Limpopo Catholic state schools continue to achieve consistently higher than Catholic state schools in other provinces.

Catholic schools are committed to an ethos of hard work and discipline, which results in academic achievements that are above the national average.  Many teachers in Catholic schools believe their chosen career to be a vocation.  This means that they are committed to every child reaching his or her potential and not merely passing matric.

The outcome of the annual matric exams is extensively critiqued each year, possibly because the results are released at a time when news is not easy to come by. Perhaps what should be more broadly debated are the poor literacy and numeracy rates of the lower grades, the distressing results of the Annual National Assessment in Grade 9 and the drop-out rate of learners over the 12 years of education. These are endemic symptoms of an education system that is in critical condition.  Amongst the furor over the release of the matric results, educationists are calling for more attention to be given to these other areas of concern that more adequately reflect the health of our education system.

It is of vital importance that education in the foundation phase is given the highest priority; without a sound grounding in literacy and numeracy, learners are unable to progress adequately.

Education should reach beyond giving learners the ability to read, write and count. Our schools ought to enable every child to reach their potential. On leaving school, young adults should be able to make a contribution to their communities and engage critically with societal issues.

Our tax money would be wisely invested in teacher training colleges, in-service training and support for teachers, libraries and books for learners of all ages and stages of education.  Until the literacy and numeracy results of children in the foundation phases increase and drop-out rates decrease, it matters little what the matric results may be.

Mrs Kelsay Corrêa
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