Motshekga ‘most unhappy’ with poor matric results

Minister for Basic Education Angie Motshekga said on Thursday she was “most unhappy” with the 60,7% pass rate for the National Senior Certificate exams.

The 2009 results showed a drop of less than two percentage points from 62,5% in 2008.

Making the announcement in Pretoria the minister said: “I wish to state categorically that even though this shift is marginal I am most unhappy with the decline in the national pass rate.”

She added that South African could not afford to allow its young people to achieve results that were average or below average. “That is why we are disappointed,” she said.

Motshekga said the results “continue to suggest that we have not yet turned the corner in education”.

“We have not yet reached the quality learning outcomes that we are striving for as a nation. The education system continues to be plagued by obvious weaknesses that act as barriers to the performance of our learners. We must continue to intensify our efforts to address these weaknesses.”

“The NSC results also show that we need to improve the support to schools. We must acknowledge that there is poor teaching in many of our schools. Management in our schools is often weak and lacks leadership and commitment. Our systems are also often inefficient. We still face major challenges in the sciences and need to strengthen our interventions in this area.

“In 2010 we shall strengthen our interventions to ensure that the class of 2010 shows a significant improvement.”

Declines in most provinces
Motshekga commended pupils in KwaZulu-Natal for improving their pass rate by 3,5 percentage points from 57,6% in 2008 to 61,1%. That was the only province to improve its pass rate, although the Eastern Cape stabilised at about 50%.

The Free State declined by 2,4 points, the Western Cape by 2,7 points and the North West by 0,5. The pass rate in Limpopo fell by 5,4 points, and the Northern Cape by what she called “a staggering” 11 points. Gauteng showed a decline of 4,6 percentage points. Mpumalanga registered the poorest performance overall with a pass rate of 47,9% — a decline of 3,9 points.

Mpumalanga dept to be ‘reconstituted’
Umalusi, the council for quality assurance, told the department on Wednesday evening that it had found no evidence of a systemic problem in Mpumalanga and was therefore satisfied that the province’s results were credible and could be released.

Motshekga announced that the Mpumalanga education department would be immediately reconstituted.

“We agreed that the national department will from 2010 assume responsibility for the administration of the National Senior Certificate examination process in Mpumalanga until necessary systems are in place,” she said.

The SA Police Service special investigation unit, the Hawks, had been called in to investigate the irregularities.

Motshekga said those found guilty of stealing and selling question papers were criminals and would be punished to the full extent of the law.

Although there are some positive signs in the results for mathematics and mathematical literacy, despite an overall decline in the pass rate, the minister said: “The performances of learners in the gateway subjects of maths, physical science and accounting however remain a major concern.”

She added: “The physical science performance was dismal this year,” and she said it will have to be tackled with extreme urgency.

Motshekga said there were more entrants for the examinations than at any time in its 150-year history, and though the percentage of passes declined, the absolute number increased.

There was also an increase in the number of passes with a mark exceeding 40%. The number of entrants who passed with university entrance exemptions — what she called bachelors’ passes — almost doubled from 18% to 32%.

“This means,” she said, nodding towards her Cabinet colleague, Blade Nzimande, the Minister for Higher Education, “there will be a greater number of earners who will be eligible to access higher education”.

She praised the fact that 417 schools achieved a pass rate of 100%, while the number of schools with a pass rate of less than 20% declined.

Concern over results
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation
of South Africa said on Thursday that while the overall results were pleasing, poor results in “gateway” subjects like maths and English should be flagged for future attention.

“The officials involved with managing the setting, printing and distribution of question papers must be commended for their hard work,” said Naptosa president Ezrah Ramasehla in a statement.

Referring to difficulties with maths, science and English, the statement continued: “Naptosa is of the view that a strategy should be put in place to ensure that suitably qualified teachers are appointed in these posts and that adequate support is given to
develop teachers of these subjects.”

Naptosa added that lower performance in rural areas also remained an area of concern.

The decline in the pass rate was “extremely disappointing”, the Independent Democrats said on Thursday.

“Given the billions of rand we have invested in education since freedom, the fact that we spend more on education than almost any other developing nation in the world and that a decent education is fundamental for the development of our nation, the matric results for 2009 are pathetic,” said education spokesperson Haniff Hoosen.

“Taxpayers must be throwing their hands up in the air in dismay because it really seems that the ANC government is incapable of improving the situation.”

The education system is in a state of crisis, the Inkatha Freedom Party said on Thursday.

“Whilst the IFP would like to extend its congratulations to those matric students who have passed their Senior Certificate examinations, today’s results must be a wake-up call to government that urgent steps must be taken to address the critical shortcoming within our education system,” said IFP education spokesperson Alfred Mpontshane.

He said matrics were failing in large numbers because the education system failed them.

“The machinery required for our children’s education has become inefficient,” said Mpontshane.

The Pan-Africanist Congress said matric results would not improve until the government accepted its responsibility for oversight.

“Results will not improve until government accept its
responsibility of school oversight which it has dumped to parents who neither have time nor capacity [for] the school challenges,” it said in a statement.

Michael Hamlyn
Michael Hamlyn works from Cape Town. Late middle age journalist
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