News / South Africa / Education / Matric
As the class of 2020 await their results, education experts say the matric pass rate in SA has never been a good indicator of how the country is performing.
However, increasing the pass mark to 50% cannot be done without directly increasing the failure rate.
University of the Free State faculty of education’s Dr Nhlanhla Mpofu said the pass rate has constantly been a very alarming statistic when released. However, no one had ever gone back to ask what led the system to where it was and what had not been working.
“We tend to look at the results rather than the process… So we cannot really talk about just the pass mark as it is – moving it from a 30% to a 50% pass mark only,” she said.
Mpofu said the issue around pass marks and rates were not important if pupils came out of school without the entrepreneurship skills they needed.
“Do they come out with the lifelong skills that we want them to have and contribute meaningfully to the South African and global economy?” she asked. “If the answer is no, then whether they get 50% of 30% is neither here nor there.
“However, it is a very crucially limited discussion that we need to have.”
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This comes after One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane said the basic education department needed to do adjust its 30% pass rate to 50% if SA was to get the economy on track. He also said life orientation should be replaced with a more academically robust subject that taught the theory and practice of critical thinking.
However, said Mpofu, although she agreed with Maimane to a certain extent, looking at the problem from the results point of view was not a solution. “We need to go back and consider why we needed to have life orientation [in the first place].”
She said the subject was supposed to address aspects like character building. “We need to have a societal discussion which asks what are those values we need our pupils to have after graduating from high school and primary school.”
Wits School of Education’s Prof Marissa Rollnick agreed the idea of having 30% as a achievement level was not the main concern, as a pass mark on its own did not mean anything.
Meanwhile, according to University of KwaZulu-Natal’s associate professor of education Wayne Hugo, there was still a strong correlation between poverty and poor matric results. Any attempt to increase the pass mark level will negatively impact the poor.
“To talk about global comparisons and increasing standards at this juncture in South Africa, hurts the very constituencies these measures are supposed to help.
“It might help the already rich families with long histories of good education, but it will certainly increase failure rates in our poorer communities, especially with Covid having increased the already existing divide.”
“Far more radical changes at societal level are needed that are way beyond the scope of what education can achieve,” Hugo said.
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