What is a matric certificate really worth?
Imagine the frustration that matriculants must feel when they realise their certificate isn’t worth much anymore.
Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
Picture: Tracy Lee Stark
Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism
We’re in the crazy season of matric exams. I can even predict how it will unfold; there will be some kind of provincial leak (my money’s on KZN this year) and after a rewrite, there will be a push back on the mark release date. The DA will then do their traditional “not the real pass rate” dance and somehow the Free State will excel and host a blandly named “well done” function and everybody will eat cake.
Recently there’s been a continuation of the relatively new addition to the education mix. It appears we’ll be giving grades 4s to 9s a sweet extra 5% in up to three subjects that they fail. This comes off the back of the effect of Covid which begs a number of questions: Were the kids who failed the only ones affected by Covid? Do the kids who didn’t fail have some other benefit? Does this policy actually drive real results?
Surely, when it comes to results, it’s the knowledge that’s associated with those results that matter. Manipulating marks is nothing new, at least when it comes to matric. Every year there’s the generational algorithm correction that pushes marks in whatever direction but even then, from an individual perspective, what use is the end certificate if the accuracy is based on a manipulative algorithm. In other words, what’s the value of a pass if the kid doesn’t know enough to get by?
I’d hardly like to have an electrical engineer unable to wire a plug or a doctor who isn’t quite so sure about their chemistry. It isn’t a far stretch to expect school kids to actually know things and be certified for what they know. If it’s just a game of fairness, forget the idea of school, give them phones, connect them to the net and make some interesting YouTube videos so that they all have the opportunity to learn. That’s seems fair and equal or at least closer to it.
It’s just that equality hardly matters when everybody is equally awful or, worse, presumed to be because there’s less certainty about the knowledge that comes with holding a matric certificate.
In some circles, one is looked down on when one is not degreed. In more circles, one is looked down on when one has not matriculated. Imagine the frustration that one who has matriculated must feel when they realise their matric isn’t seen as what it was anymore no matter how hard they worked for it.
Sure, the kids who work for marks will have the knowledge and that’s dandy, so it would be great if the certificate would consistently reflect that knowledge. In order to do that, you’d need the marks to show what the pupils know, not just what’s seemingly fair across generations and obstacles.
Ideally, you’d have both of those things and that is possible. It’s not a matter of focusing on one or the other but rather just making the system better. We certainly throw enough budget at it. If we know that having a matric is really representative of the knowledge it purports to certify, it will be far more meaningful on both fronts and less likely that we’ll ever need to make any adjustment.
It just feels like we don’t take education seriously until it comes to the results. What leads up to those results doesn’t seem to require intervention.
Imagine if we took the energy that we input into mark manipulation – and figuring out how to quantify that Covid eina into 5%, but only if you fail – and put that into actual teaching and teaching strategy. Wouldn’t that be great?
Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits