Improved matric pass rate welcomed

Praise for the 7,2% improvement in the 2002 matric exam results was tempered on Friday by warnings that huge inequalities still existed between South Africa’s nine provinces when it came to education resources.

Announcing the results at a media briefing in Cape Town, Education Minister Kader Asmal said the results had gone from 61,7% in 2001 to 68,9% in 2002.

This was a vast improvement on the 48,9% pass rate in 1999, he said.

South Africa’s biggest teachers’ union, the 140 000-member South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), commended ”all stakeholders… for the tremendous effort and hard work these statistics represent”.

It also welcomed what it called the prompt release of the results. However, Sadtu warned that notwithstanding the improvement over last year’s results, ”the figures indicate underlying structural inequalities and disparities in the system”.

The 2002 results continued to reflect the legacy of apartheid and the unequal distribution of educational resources across the provinces.

”Again, the relatively well-endowed provinces performed best (Northern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng), with the lowest pass rates in the poorer provinces.”

The union also warned that the relatively low numbers of students writing and passing mathematics and science subjects nationally ”has dire consequences for the skills required to support a modern economy”.

The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) said the matric class of 2002 had ”made us proud”.

It too called for the department to give more attention to the distribution of educational resources to poor schools, and repeated a call for private school subsidies to be cut.

”These resources should be redirected to the more needy provinces and schools,” Cosas said.

Democratic Alliance education representative Richard Ntuli welcomed the improved pass rate, but warned there was no room for complacency.

While the results are certainly an improvement on last year’s performance and therefore cause for congratulations to the learners, teachers and parents of those who passed, there is no room for complacency.

”Rather, we need to build on the lessons and successes of 2002 to ensure that the upward trend continues next year and into the future,” he said.

New National Party representative Dr Boy Geldenhuys said the pass rate was evidence that the millions of rands poured into education since 1999 ”is paying off”.

The shocking pass rate in 1999 of only 48,9% was a ”huge concern that the money allocated to education was disappearing into thin air”.

”This year however, the pass rate of 68,9%, surpassing the expectation of 65%, is worth celebrating,” Geldenhuys said.

The SA Communist Party in KwaZulu-Natal also congratulated all matriculants, teachers and parents on the improvements in this year’s matric results. ”These results are a clear indication of what can be achieved if there is a good partnership from all role players,” the SACP said

Afrikaner Unity Movement (AEB) leader Cassie Aucamp said the improvements throughout the country were remarkable.

”Nobody can deny the fact that professor Asmal, his ministry and the national department have put in an exceptional effort to reduce the number of dysfunctional schools.

”Of course there may be questions on the standards, but it would be opportunistic not to give credit where credit is due,” Aucamp said. At the media briefing earlier, Asmal said this year, for the first time, all provinces had recorded an improvement in their pass rates and all had a pass percentage above 50.

The two provinces that showed significant improvements were the Free State — moving from 59% in 2001 to 70,7% in 2002 — and Limpopo, with an increase of ten percent from 59,5 in 2001 to 69,5% this year.

The highest provincial pass rate was achieved by the Northern Cape with 89,95% (84,2% last year), and the lowest by Eastern Cape with 51,8% (45,6% last year).

The figures for Gauteng were 78,1 (73,6 in 2001), KwaZulu-Natal 70,8 (62,8), North West 67,8 (62,5), Mpumalanga 55,8 (46,9), and Western Cape 86,5 (82,7).

Asmal said the 2002 results were ”undoubtedly a motion of confidence for public education”.

Despite the adverse conditions of poverty and the rural nature of some provinces, which all impacted on quality support to schools, the determination of their individual teachers, pupils and parents had triumphed against all odds.

Thousands of township and rural schools, which had been characterised as dysfunctional, had also shown enormous improvement.

In 1999, a quarter of schools fell in this category, but in 2002 only 242 of the almost 6000 state schools achieved less than a 20 percent pass rate, Asmal said. According to figures released by the education department, a total of 443 821 full-time candidates wrote the senior certificate examination.

Of these, 305 774 (68,9 percent) passed, 137 991 (31,1%) failed, and 56 were ”awaiting results”.

President Thabo Mbeki also heartily congratulated the 2002 matriculants for their splendid performance in the year end exams, representative David Hlabane said on Friday.

”In a spirit of appreciation the president said the class of 2002 had undoubtedly made all of us proud as they had registered yet another welcome improvement in the national matriculant results,” Hlabane said.

Mbeki said the higher pass rate achieved this year testified to the unmatched commitment shown by pupils, dedicated teachers and education officials. ”Clearly this positive outcome says to all of us, if we continue to work together as a united people sharing the common goal of reconstructing our country, the creation of an enlightened society will definitely be within reach,” the president said. – Sapa

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