Matric class of 2017 shows marked improvement

Mandla Makupula, MEC for Education in the Eastern Cape, addressing attendees at the event celebrating the province’s top achievers

Mandla Makupula, MEC for Education in the Eastern Cape, addressing attendees at the event celebrating the province’s top achievers

The National Development Plan places education as a significant lever of change in the fight against poverty, past inequities and inequalities, and a critical driver of development in the new South Africa, hence education is an apex priority. Given the potential multiplicity of its impact on the lives of the poor, it stands to reason that education and training in the Eastern Cape must make significant changes in the lives of the youth of the province.

This is the context in which the department is presenting the 2017 matric results. I am happy to announce that the matric class of 2017 improved the Eastern Cape National Senior Certificate (NSC) results by a whopping 5.7%, from 59.3% in 2016 to 65% in 2017. This is the third consecutive year of matric results improving in the Eastern Cape.

These improvements must be seen in the context of a system-wide Education System Transformation Plan (ESTP) that was adopted by the executive council and implemented in January 2016. The strategic thrust of the plan is to maximise opportunities of learners achieving a good pass in the NSC while improving performance in the whole system.

Two strategic levers of the ESTP had significant impact on the final outcome of the 2017 matric results, and these are:

  • Ensuring basic requirements for teaching and learning are in place
  • Special interventions aimed at learning and teaching enrichment.
  • In 2017 the department took extraordinary steps to ensure that basic requirements for effective teaching are in place by ensuring that:

  • there is a teacher present in every class;
  • every teacher is in class and teaching;
  • every learner has a textbook for every subject;
  • every learner has a chair and a writing place;
  • quality tests (SBAs) are developed and administered;
  • learners receive additional subject support; and
  • schools are effectively monitored and supported by subject advisors.
  • Secondly, special interventions are deliberately designed to enrich teaching and learning at school level, and these include:

  • the provision of supplementary materials such as study tips for success, mind the gap study guides, and past examination papers;
  • Contact sessions such as Saturday and afternoon classes, and winter and spring schools, leading up to the final examinations; and
  • Advocacy and stakeholder mobilisation in the form of the last push campaign.

  • 2017 matric results

    Overall pass rate

    In 2017, the department fielded 67 648 learners who wrote all subjects, and 43 981 passed the NSC examinations at required levels. This brought the pass rate up to 65%.

    Bachelor passes

    The number of bachelor passes increased from 19% in 2016 to 23% in 2017, representing a 4% increase. This is a phenomenal improvement on previous years, as the proportion of learners obtaining a bachelor pass has not surpassed 20% since 2014.

    Subject performance

    Of the 39 subjects written in the Eastern Cape, only 12 were declined. These were small enrolment subjects (except for accounting and business studies). Commendable improvements were registered in the big enrolment subjects with:

  • Agriculture improving by 1%, from 71.5% to 72.5%
  • Economics by 5.6%, from 54.5% to 60.1%
  • Geography by 0.5%, from 69.3% to 69.8%
  • History by 4.5%, from 74.8% to 79.4%.
  • Life sciences by 6.8%, from 61.7% to 68.5%.
  • Natural sciences took a new turn in performance improvement with:

  • Maths literacy improving by 8.3%, from 56.1% to 64.4%
  • Mathematics by 4.8%, from 37.5% to 42.3%
  • Physical science by 7.7%, from 49.6% to 57.3%.
  • Mathematics

    Mathematics has somehow rewritten the mathematical sciences narrative; the Eastern Cape was the first province to field more mathematics learners than maths literacy learners and yet there was an improvement of 7.7%. Mathematics fielded 35 994 learners compared to 34 609 learners who wrote mathematical literacy.

    Themba Kojana, superintendent general of the EC department of education

    Languages

    Languages, with the exception of Afrikaans and English, showed improvement with:

  • IsiXhosa remaining at 99.8%
  • Sesotho improving by 0.1%, from 99.2% to 99.3%
  • IsiZulu improving by 20%, from 80% to 100%.
  • Distinctions

    The number of candidates obtaining distinctions improved in 2017:

  • The overall percentage improvement moved from 2.1% in 2016 to 2.7% in 2017;
  • Cluster A distinctions improved from 1.6% in 2016 to 2.4% in 2017;
  • Cluster B distinctions improved from 2.6% in 2016 to 3% in 2017;
  • Nelson Mandela Bay had the highest percentage at 4.5% of distinctions;
  • Buffalo City was second at 3.9%; and
  • OR Tambo Inland was third at 3.4%.
  • District performance

    Two districts obtained an above 70% pass; eight districts obtained between a 60-69% pass mark, resulting in 10 of the 12 districts performing above 60%, with only two districts performing below 60%.

  • NMB was the leading district at 72.6%
  • Sarah Baartman followed at 71.8%
  • OR Tambo Inland improved at 69.3%
  • Chris Hani West also improved at 67.9%
  • Alfred Nzo West made some gains at 67.3%
  • Joe Gqabi improved at 67%.
  • Four districts registered quality bachelor passes that surpassed the provincial average, these being:

  • Nelson Mandela Bay at 28.7%
  • Buffalo City at 27.3%
  • OR Tambo Coastal at 26.6%
  • OR Tambo Inland at 26.3.
  • The following districts had notably improved performances:

  • OR Tambo Coastal improved by 14.9%, from 46.7% to 61.7%
  • Chris Hani East improved by 9%, from 52.8% to 61.8%
  • Alfred Nzo East improved by 7.1%, from 55.3% to 62.4%
  • NMB improved by 6.9%, from 65.7% to 72.6%
  • Chris Hani West improved by 5.8%, from 62.1% to 67.9%.

  • School performance

    Schools performance percentiles have shown encouraging trends. The number of schools between the 10th and 50th percentile has dropped, while numbers between the 60th and 90th percentile have picked up. Here are the current trends on percentiles that dropped:

  • Schools between 10-20% dropped from 32 to 20
  • Schools between 30-40% dropped from 98 to 79.
  • Percentiles that picked up are as follows;

  • Schools between 60-70% increased from 110 to 156
  • Schools between 80-90% improved from 87 to 125
  • Schools between 90-100% improved from 60 to 79.
  • The plan that worked

    The implementation of the ESTP has taught us one important lesson; where there was a concerted effort at implementation of the plan, results tended to speak for themselves. What this means is that where we gave extra effort to the implementation we bore results.

    Organisational stability

    Looking back at efforts undertaken through the ESTP, the inroads made were commendable. First is the stabilisation of head office and the appointment of a permanent head of department, supported by deputy directors general and chief directors. Second is the rollout of the new service delivery model and the subsequent establishment of 12 new education districts, each headed by a district director. If the current district performance trend is anything to go by, it will improve by even larger margins in 2018. More efforts will therefore go into consolidation of the 12 new districts.

    Thirdly is the appointment of circuit managers and subject advisors to strengthen school management and curriculum leadership. Each circuit manager is responsible for 25 to 30 schools, thereby resulting in shorter cycles of decision-making and resolution of challenges at local level. Training and development programs are continuous to induct and capacitate appointed circuit managers and subject advisors.

    Labour stability

    Labour stability has improved enormously, with all structures operating within the legislated frameworks. The department has continued putting effort into building relationships with social partners, resulting in reference groups and joint task teams in a number of operational areas. We will continue building bridges for the sake of the African child.

    School functionality improvement

    In 2017 the department invested in management and leadership development of school principals, their deputies and heads of department as part of school functionality development. A number of programmes were designed and rolled out across the system, ranging from training and development to information management systems and improvement interventions. Theses included:

    - Capacity development and training of 831 principals in data management, as part of the data-driven district management tool;

    - 396 principals and 920 heads of department were trained in curriculum management and supervision as part of curriculum delivery improvement efforts;

    - A new initiative focusing on the establishment of support networks for women principals across the 12 districts;

    - Deployment of coaches and mentors to 163 underperforming schools as part of leadership development and support;

    - Accountability sessions with underperforming FET school principals as part of school functionality development; and

    - Governance.

    The introduction of data management had a huge impact on the system as it allowed the department to disaggregate learner performance into trends and patterns that were useful for programming and targeting of performance improvement interventions. Data management at school level has subsequently improved, with 94% of our schools submitting results electronically by the end of term two in 2017.

    Filling of vacancies

    The stabilisation of the PPN (post provisioning norms) over the last three years has enabled the department to tackle a number of HR inefficiencies with ease, and this includes the filling of funded vacant posts. To prevent long cycles of schools with vacancies, the department delegated the appointment of PL1 teachers to district directors, and principal posts to cluster chief directors. This made it easy to fill funded vacant posts in schools. In 2017 the department issued a number of bulletins which were duly attended to by districts, these being:

  • Promotion Bulletins Volume 1 and 2 issued in June 2017 for principal posts, deputy principal posts and heads of department. These were concluded by October 1 2017;
  • Promotion Bulletin issued in September 2017 for 308 principal posts; 1 003 deputy principal and heads of department. These were concluded by November 17 2017; and
  • Closed Bulletin for PL1 teachers issued on September 29 2017, targeting 3 089 posts that were advertised.
  • Curriculum support systems

    Streamlining curriculum offerings in secondary schools to improve output at certificate level was an urgent priority. Curriculum management guidelines were issued to schools to guide schools in the selection of winning subject combinations for grades 10 to 12. To support this effort, 90 posts of therapists were earmarked for all 12 districts, to give every learner a second chance in life by assessing learner capabilities in the early grades. To this end an “early learning disability detection” programme, in line with White Paper 6, was inaugurated.

    Appointing subject advisors on merit will be a priority this year.

    Protecting the teaching time

    The department released a circular instructing schools to observe and adhere to teaching times as prescribed in national policy, pertaining to the programme and promotion requirements of the national curriculum statements.

    The department also released a series of supplementary guidelines to all public schools to assist teachers with optimal utilisation of the prescribed teaching time per academic year. The guideline is the annual teaching plan for grades R-9 and grades 10-12 per subject per grade. The department supplemented this with posters, providing schools with an overview of the amount of work to be covered at various timelines of the academic year in line with Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (Caps) prescriptions, and the school terms.

    An early warning system based on a provincial common examinations was launched in 2016 focusing on the 11 high enrolment subjects in grade 12, as well as common examinations for grades three, six and nine in the GET (general education and training) band. All performance improvement efforts in 2017 were informed by lessons learnt from March, June and September common examinations.


    The last push

    The department embarked upon a support program that encouraged schools to use every single bit of the last 100 days before the final examinations. The campaign was based on the following four assumptions:

  • All NSC 2017 grade 12 candidates know what it takes to pass the NSC and obtain a bachelor pass — and that is NSC pass requirements — against their strengths and weaknesses, i.e. which subjects and sections of the subjects do they need to concentrate on in the last 100 days; which sections of the curriculum are heavily weighted and carry high marks in the examinations; and what is the layout, requirements and mark allocation of each examination paper. This information is made available to every learner.
  • For the last 100 days every NSC candidate was required to write past examination papers, whether in class, in after-school homework sessions, during extra lessons, at home or in a library. This is the key to success in pressured, time-bound written examinations. This practice was continued into November 2017 for every examination written.
  • Learners attended extra lessons at their school, at other schools, on television and on radio. These lessons focused on writing and passing past papers.
  • Schools submit appropriate and complete SBA (school-based assessment) marks on time.
  • Going forward

    2018 will be our last year of implementing the ESTP, and therefore we need to review and consolidate beyond it. Plans are already in place for the mainstreaming of best practices. Going forward the department has identified areas of special interest that deserve attention in 2018, and these are:

  • The rollout of the new three-stream curriculum model to a larger number of schools in 2018;
  • The strengthening of primary reading and mathematics as part of improving the quality of primary education in the Eastern Cape;
  • Special attention will be paid to the two districts that performed below 60%;
  • Mathematics and science deserve renewed attention in 2018. Pass rates improved considerably in 2017 and learner intake has shown exponential growth over the last three years; and
  • Focus will be on guiding schools on the winning combination of matric subjects. Evidence is pointing to a good balance between technical and vocational streams, hospitality and consumer studies, as well as performing and liberal arts. These streams have had good pass averages over the last three years.
  • Conclusion

    The key message from the class of 2017 is that the Eastern Cape is on the rise. Improvements made in 2017 must be seen in the light of interventions put in place to mitigate the impact of Caps curriculum complexities.

    My gratitude goes out to the multitude of our teachers who continue to serve our nation heroically and selflessly. Despite countless difficulties our teachers have decided to stick to the profession, fulfilling their sacred duty of imparting knowledge and educating children.

    Let me also extend a hand of acknowledgement to our parents, schools communities and our officials for their exceptional deeds of valour and sacrifice. They have always ensured that children are at school against all odds. A word of wisdom as we part ways.

  • Let us learn to respect the peasantry and the working class and live with them;
  • The life of an ordinary human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth;
  • The pride of serving our fellow human being is much more important than a good income; and
  • People’s gratitude is much more lasting than all the gold one can accumulate.
  • Mandla Makupula is MEC for Education in the Eastern Cape