Basic education minister, Angie Motshekga released the 2013 matric pass rate of 78.2% today [6 January 2014], but many educational experts said that these results are not of much value.
“The standard of our question papers has improved significantly and is comparable to most international bodies,” she said.
In 2009, when Motshekga took over as minister, the pass rate was 60.6 percent. It has climbed steadily since then.
According to educational experts who spoke to Rapport most of the students who passed matric cannot write or do basic mathematics, and many are functionally illiterate.
Theuns Eloff, vice-chancellor at North-West University, said that the matric pass rate which increased from 60.6% in 2009 to the current 78.2% is an illusion.
Eloff said that they are sceptical about the growing pass rate, adding that there are many indicators which show that there is no improvement in the quality of education in South Africa.
Some experts also pointed to the poor performance in matric mathematics – a key subject in the fast changing global economy.
SA’s education system a fraud
Free State vice-chancellor Jonathan Jansen said that the truth is that South Africa’s education system is a fraud.
Jansen highlighted some prominent problems with SA’s education system in a Sunday Times column, including:
- 5% of grade 6 pupils know more about mathematics than the bottom 20% of mathematics teachers in the same grade.
- The national average for grade 9 mathematics is 14%. Only 3% of pupils scored higher than 50%.
- South Africa finished last, or close to last, in international mathematics and science rankings.
Jansen said that the pass rates of 30% to 40% are just too low. He advised that Government schools should set a 50 percent pass rate to get South African’s education system on track.
Easier exam papers
Apart from a lower percentage needed to pass, educational experts have also pointed to easier mathematics exam papers, according to an article in Rapport.
In a comparison between the matric mathematics papers of 1985, 1993, 2008 and 2012, experts said that the 1985 and 1993 papers were significantly harder than the 2008 and 2012 papers.
Johann Engelbrecht, professor of mathematics education at the University of Pretoria, highlighted that the more difficult 1985 and 1993 papers are partly related to the fact that these were higher grade papers.
Higher grade mathematics have fallen away after changes to the mathematics syllabus in 2007, which is a combination of the old higher and standard grade levels.
Poor education hurting SA’s IT industry
In November 2013, Naspers CEO Koos Bekker warned that South Africa’s poor education system is hurting Internet developments and investments in the country by not developing enough engineers to drive the country forward.
“To get an engineer you need a kid who is enthused about mathematics, and is prepared to study engineering at university,” said Bekker.
“Regrettably our education system is so poor it simply does not yield the mathematics geniuses we need to go to university to become engineers.”
Consequently, said Bekker, South Africa is falling behind countries such as India and China where engineering professionals are prized.
The Naspers CEO said that the education system is not only poor at the worst public school level, but also poor at the top private schools, such as Bishops and Michaelhouse.
–Reporting with Sapa