South Africa’s matric results are a poor indication of the state of South Africa’s education system, and have previously been described as an illusion and even a fraud.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga will announce the national and provincial matric pass rates on 5 January 2015.
The matric pass rate showed a near miraculous increase under the Zuma leadership – from 60.6% in 2009 to 78.2% in 2013.
While many government officials are celebrating this growth, many academics and educational experts warn against associating the matric pass rate growth with a healthy education system.
Theuns Eloff, former vice-chancellor at North-West University, said that the matric pass rate which increased from 60.6% in 2009 to 78.2% in 2013 is an illusion.
Eloff said that there are many indicators which show that there is no improvement in the quality of education in South Africa.
Free State vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen previously said that the truth is that South Africa’s education system is a fraud.
Matric pass rate not a reflection on educational health
Kate Wilkinson, senior researcher at Africa Check, said that it would be misleading to suggest that an improvement in the matric pass rate reflects improvements in the education system as a whole.
“A high dropout rate skews the results. Approximately 50% of pupils drop out of school before they sit their final exams,” said Wilkinson.
Annette Lovemore, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education, said that the matric results, at first glance, appear to indicate that the education system is healthy, and improving constantly.
“The system, however, is not as healthy as the Minister would have the nation believe,” said Lovemore.
Lovemore said that it is essential to consider the quality of the matric pass, and not just the number of passes.
“When more than 50% of learners passing are passing their individual subjects at less than 50%, then there is a problem,” she said.
Even the Department of Basic Education said that the “matric pass rate on its own is not a good measure of academic achievement in the schooling system, nor was the pass rate ever designed for this”.
It would therefore be a mistake to celebrate a high matric pass rate as the main measure of educational excellence.
Problems with South African education system
Academics and educational experts highlighted that the following issues should be considered when looking at South Africa’s matric results.
- More than 50% of 2013 matric learners passing are passing their individual subjects at less than 50%
- The dropout rate from Grade 10 to Grade 12 is 46.8%.
- When the 2013 matric class started grade one in 2002, there were 1,261,827 pupils. By the time they came to sit their final exams, their numbers had fallen to 562,112.
- Many matric learners pass with a combination of subjects that allows no entry to training or any job
- The number of learners taking easier matric subjects has increased dramatically over the past few years.
- Thousands of learners are taking Mathematics literacy instead of Mathematics, and thus nullifying the value of other subjects in their repertoire
Other problems related to South Africa’s education system include:
- 5% of grade 6 pupils know more about mathematics than the bottom 20% of mathematics teachers in the same grade
- The Annual National Assessments (ANA) results for 2014 show that the average performance in Grade 9 mathematics is 10.8%
- Only 3% of Grade 9 learners achieved 50% or more in mathematics
- The Trends in Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) research shows that South Africa’s performance is very close to the bottom of all surveyed countries
- The World Economic Forum’s “Global Information Technology Report 2014” ranked South Africa as the country with the worst perceived quality of mathematics and science education
- Many schools in South Africa still have poor infrastructure, poor sanitation, overcrowding and a lack of learning materials