Matric maths? Don't panic!

Education Minister Naledi Pandor tried last week to calm the nerves of parents, teachers and learners about the new matric exam to be written in two months’ time.

Standard-grade exam papers will not be written this year. For the first time, all learners will write the same matric papers.

The sharpest concerns about the new National Senior Certificate regard mathematics, with some insisting that “pure mathematics”, as currently offered, is inaccessible to most learners, while “mathematical literacy” is an unacceptably watered-down version of the subject.

Last week the Mail & Guardian reported that a group called Concerned Mathematics Educators had called for the scrapping of the current mathematics curriculum until there is a sufficient pool of trained maths teachers in the country.

The group predicted a sharp drop in the matric pass rate this year because most learners are not equipped to write the maths exam in its new format.

Pandor insisted her department has its ducks in a row and has put in place measures to help about 600 000 grade 12 learners who will sit the exam this year.

She said: “This is not an easy exam. If you don’t work hard, you’ll find it difficult. If you’ve been working diligently you should be able to do well.” She also appealed to learners not to view maths as a “bogeyman”.

Pandor said she had noted the concerns of maths teachers and would monitor the system closely and review it if necessary.

The education department has measures ready to help learners prepare, as follows:

  • Example papers will be released in September to give learners guidance on the standard in the exams.
  • These papers were set after assessment by Cambridge International Examinations and the Scottish Quali­fications Authority in the United Kingdom and the Board of Studies New South Wales in Australia.

    • All learners will receive two books of exam practice papers in the next two months.
    • Study guides containing examination and assessment examples will be made available to be used by Saturday and spring schools and for revision purposes.
    • A privately funded book of example maths and maths literacy papers will be provided to grade 10, 11 and 12 learners.
    • A 48-page book, Study Mate, will be distributed to schools this month and in mid-September.
    • There will be regular televised lessons in the 10 major matric subjects in collaboration with the SABC, supplemented by radio broadcasts.
    • Through the National Strategy for Learner Attainment, special support will be given to schools which have fallen below the 60% senior certificate pass rate.

    Meanwhile, education spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele denied reports that grade nine learners would receive a general education certificate if they choose to leave school at the end of the year.

    Ngqengelele said the department wants learners to stay in the system until they enter tertiary education. He said the grade nine certificate has no value in the world of work.

    Thabo Mohlala

    Thabo Mohlala

    Thabo reports for the Teacher newspaper, a Mail & Guardian monthly publication. Apart from covering education stories, he also writes across other beats. He enjoys reading and is an avid soccer and athletics fanatic. Thabo harbours a dream of writing a book. Read more from Thabo Mohlala