MA­TRIC PASS RATE SET TO DROP

Maths, phys­i­cal sci­ence and home lan­guages might have been the down­fall of many Grade 12s in the class of 2014

CityPress - - Front Page - ATHANDIWE SABA athandiwe.saba@city­press.co.za

T he ma­tric pass rate is set to drop for the first time in five years, ac­cord­ing to the man re­spon­si­ble for exam qual­ity con­trol. Pro­fes­sor John Volmink, the head of the coun­cil of stan­dards body Umalusi, told City Press in an in­ter­view this week he ex­pects the pass rate to drop be­tween 3% and 5%.

This trans­lates to be­tween 165 000 and 178 000 pupils out of the more than 660 000 who wrote the exams.

Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga will host a brief­ing to­mor­row, at which she’ll an­nounce the over­all pass rate for the ma­tric class of 2014.

The na­tional pass rate has climbed steadily from 60.6% in 2009, soar­ing from 73.9% in 2012 to an all-time post-1994 high of 78.2% last year.

But in­stead of break­ing the 80% bar­rier in 2014, Volmink be­lieves we’ll see a dip.

“Mak­ing use of the raw scores that are 75% of the to­tal mark, ex­clud­ing the con­tin­u­ous as­sess­ment that hap­pens at school, which counts for 25%, I can ven­ture a guess based on my ex­pe­ri­ence that the na­tional re­sults will be down by 3% to 5% com­pared with last year,” said Volmink.

As the qual­ity as­surer, it’s Umalusi’s job to mod­er­ate and ap­prove exam pa­pers. It also mon­i­tors the exams, ver­i­fies the mark­ing process and makes sure the fi­nal re­sults are sta­tis­ti­cally mod­er­ated.

Volmink first served as the chair of the Umalusi coun­cil from 2006 to 2010, and was then ap­pointed by Mot­shekga as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Eval­u­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Unit. He re­turned to Umalusi in June 2014. Ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment spokesper­son Eli­jah Mhlanga said City Press’ re­port was “spec­u­la­tive” and re­fused to an­swer any ques­tions about the 2014 re­sults un­til Mot­shekga de­liv­ers her speech to­mor­row evening.

Ni­cholas Spaull, an ed­u­ca­tion re­searcher and lec­turer at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, said Volmink’s were “the most in­formed pre­dic­tions we are likely to get be­fore the ac­tual re­lease [of the re­sults to­mor­row]”. Volmink at­trib­uted his pre­dicted dip to:

A fail­ure rate of 48% (with­out ad­just­ments) in maths lit­er­acy, com­pared with 20% in 2013;

A drop of be­tween 5% and 6% in the pass rate for math­e­mat­ics and phys­i­cal sci­ence; and

What he said was a wor­ry­ing drop in home lan­guage pass rates, in­clud­ing English.

English as a home lan­guage was taken by 105 000 pupils, but Volmink said more failed this year than in 2013. Although 432 797 pupils took English as a first ad­di­tional lan­guage, their scores were not ad­justed and the fail­ure rate is slightly higher than last year.

In 2009, it be­came manda­tory for ev­ery ma­tric pupil to take math­e­mat­ics or maths lit­er­acy. The lat­ter has al­ways been seen as an eas­ier op­tion – but, ac­cord­ing to Volmink, it was tougher than math­e­mat­ics in 2014. He said un­der­stand­ing maths in con­text, which is the aim of maths lit­er­acy, is much more im­por­tant than un­der­stand­ing al­ge­bra. “Maths lit­er­acy is po­ten­tially a very pow­er­ful sub­ject.”

Umalusi and the depart­ment were ex­pect­ing a dip in maths re­sults be­cause of changes in the cur­ricu­lum dur­ing 2014.

There was a huge sec­tion in the 2014 exams that was not pre­vi­ously in the cur­ricu­lum.

“We had Eu­clidean ge­om­e­try and prob­a­bil­i­ties, which are con­cep­tu­ally hard,” Volmink said.

“There will be more peo­ple fail­ing math­e­mat­ics this year, but we had a lot more pass­ing with A’s, so we had to bring it down to the five-year stan­dard.

“Math­e­mat­ics was ad­justed down­wards for the top pupils. Maths lit­er­acy was ad­justed up­wards.”

“The home lan­guages also saw a de­crease in the pass rate – and if you fail the home lan­guage, you fail,” Volmink said. “For English home lan­guage, we had an in­crease in the fail­ure rate.

“We made a small up­ward adjustment be­cause the fail­ure rate was sig­nif­i­cantly higher than pre­vi­ous years, but it is still down from last year.”

Volmink said the 2014 re­sults could have been worse, but praised in­ter­ven­tions by the ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment, which he said helped ar­rest fur­ther de­cline. Th­ese in­cluded teacher work­shops run by provin­cial and na­tional de­part­ments; and hol­i­day and week­end camps, which were de­signed to give pupils ex­tra teach­ing time.

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Angie Mot­shekga

Pro­fes­sor John Volmink

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