A matric certificate is not enough in South Africa

A matric certificate may not be enough to secure employment in South Africa, according to Professor Sarah Gravett, the executive dean of the faculty of education at the University of Johannesburg.

The official 2019 matric pass rate was recently announced by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga.

81.3% of learners who wrote their exams completed Grade 12, an increase of 3.1 percentage points from 2018’s pass rate of 78.2%.

However, Gravett has pointed out that these numbers may not entirely reflect reality.

Troubling dropout rate

This figure does not take into account the number of learners that drop out during the course of their schooling or the high dropout rate of matrics that don’t write their final exams.

Considering that the number of matric dropouts has risen from 23,389 in 2015 to 112,451 in 2019, it is evident that more matrics are struggling.

Add to this that the Department has gradually brought down the basic requirements for matric graduation in recent years and the concerns over the standards of essential subjects, and many may question whether this matric pass rate is of much value.

Even for those matrics that do manage to earn their National Senior Certificate, the road forward may not be easy.

Not the best metric for quality

Gravett believes that the higher matric pass rate is not a straightforward measure of an increase in the quality of education.

“The way in which the matric results are currently made available does not say a lot about quality,” Gravett said.

She said the Minister’s planned inclusion of other indicators which will give a better picture of education equality is positive.

“I’m very pleased that the Minister has once again confirmed that in future there will be a basket of indicators that will be used,” Gravett explained.

“So, in other words, it would not only be the matric results as such, but it would indicate also, for example, the dropout or the retention rate. It will indicate our learners are doing in terms of gateway subjects. It will indicate distinctions, etc.”

“When one has this basket of indicators, one would have a much better understanding of quality, so the matric results as such does not really tell one a lot about the education system and the quality of the matric results,” Gravett said.

University admission

Although 36.9% of matrics received a bachelor pass this year, it is important to note that the majority will likely not be able to study a preferred course at an institution of their choice.

“At the moment we use the matric results as a higher education institution to make admissions in relation to who we allow into courses,” Gravett stated.

However, she said that this was not the only qualifying criteria for most courses on offer at universities.

“It is also important to note that even when one meets the requirements for a bachelor pass, the far majority of courses at a university would also have additional requirements and would not only be matric results to make final decisions in terms of placement.”

Further studies

Nevertheless, Gravett recommended that learners who completed matric must attempt to further their education at a tertiary institution or training college of some kind to improve the likelihood of securing a job.

“If at all possible, young people must try to pursue something beyond matric. To find a job only with matric in future is going to be extremely difficult,” Gravett stated.

“Now by that, it does not necessarily mean that you must go to university, there are many other pathways also. There is investment again in the TVET colleges, to improve the quality there. And there might be learnerships available and many other ways,” Gravett added.

She emphasised the importance to not view Grade 12 as the final frontier of learning.

“Don’t see matric as the end of the road, because if you see matric as the end of the road, you are probably going to struggle to find employment in the country,” Gravett said.

“I think we need to realise matric is not doing it anymore.”

Now read: How South Africa’s matric dropout rate hides the real pass rate

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A matric certificate is not enough in South Africa