It’s exam sea­son again!

Grocott's Mail - - MAKANA VOICES -

Once again it is ‘ exam sea­son’. Ex­am­i­na­tions and ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in Gra­ham­stown, be­cause this city markets it­self as a centre of ed­u­ca­tional ex­cel­lence. Ob­vi­ously, a cru­cial data set that un­der­pins such claims is ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults.

Over the next six weeks, many young peo­ple, in­clud­ing school learn­ers and ter­tiary stu­dents, both at Rhodes Univer­sity and East Cape Mid­lands Col­lege, will be writ­ing end-of-year ex­am­i­na­tions. There is a lot at stake, par­tic­u­larly for the Ma­tric­u­lants (Grade 12 learn­ers) and for those Rhodes stu­dents who de­pend on state fund­ing (in the form of the Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme or NSFAS).

The im­por­tance of Ma­tric re­sults in the South African con­text is well doc­u­mented. South Africans who leave school with­out a Na­tional Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate (NSC) al­most in­vari­ably go into long-term un­em­ploy­ment. Ob­tain­ing a NSC raises one’s prospects of be­ing ab­sorbed into the job econ­omy, and there­fore of be­ing able to raise one­self and one’s family out of poverty. But what’s really im­por­tant in this re­gard is the qual­ity of one’s NSC.

There are three lev­els of pass, which are named ac­cord­ing to type of ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion that they en­able one to ap­ply for. Specif­i­cally, if one ob­tains a ‘Higher Cer­tifi­cate’ level NSC then one can ap­ply for Higher Cer­tifi­cate stud­ies (but one can­not ap­ply for ac­cep­tance into Diploma or Bach­e­lor De­gree pro­grammes).

If one ob­tains a ‘ Diploma’ level NSC then one can ap­ply for ei­ther Higher Cer­tifi­cate or Diploma stud­ies (but one can­not ap­ply for ac­cep­tance into a Bach­e­lor De­gree pro­gramme). Fi­nally, if one ob­tains a ‘Bach­e­lor’ level NSC then one can ap­ply for the ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion of one’s choice, with­out re­stric­tion.

The rea­son that this is so im­por­tant is that the labour mar­ket places a higher value on diplo­mas than on higher cer­tifi­cates and it places a higher value on bach­e­lor de­grees than on diplo­mas. Of course the value of de­grees vary from univer­sity to univer­sity. Specif­i­cally, the value of a de­gree from a good qual­ity univer­sity like Rhodes is much higher than the value of a de­gree from a lesser qual­ity univer­sity.

The lat­est sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that 94% of Rhodes grad­u­ates ac­cess good em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties within six months of grad­u­a­tion. The con­trast is thus stark; if one fails to ob­tain an NSC, then one is doomed to un­em­ploy­ment and poverty, whereas if one ob­tains a good univer­sity de­gree then em­ploy­ment is vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed.

This dis­cus­sion log­i­cally takes us to Rhodes and the chal­lenge fac­ing stu­dents as they pre­pare for their fi­nal ex­am­i­na­tions.

At GADRA Ed­u­ca­tion, our main con­cern and in­ter­est lie with stu­dents who de­pend on NSFAS sup­port. Many mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic are un­aware that NFSAS ben­e­fi­cia­ries are obliged to pass the ma­jor­ity of their sub­jects in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble for con­tin­ued sup­port the fol­low­ing year. This con­trasts with the sit­u­a­tion for most priv­i­leged stu­dents; if they fail a year, their fee-pay­ing par­ents are will­ing to give them a sec­ond chance.

Stu­dents from poor fam­i­lies do not have this lux­ury. For them, they have to pass in or­der to sus­tain their un­der­grad­u­ate jour­neys. In re­cent years, Rhodes has prided it­self in hav­ing the high­est through­put rate of all South African uni­ver­si­ties.

That is to say, a higher pro­por­tion of Rhodes stu­dents grad­u­ate than at any other na­tional univer­sity. This has been one of its ma­jor mar­ket­ing points. So, good end-ofyear re­sults are vi­tal for the on­go­ing rep­u­ta­tion and good name of Rhodes.

On the ba­sis of this ex­pla­na­tion, read­ers will un­der­stand that there is an enor­mous amount rest­ing on the per­for­mance of our young peo­ple in these fi­nal ex­am­i­na­tions, as there is ev­ery year. Our city does not have a lot go­ing for it – it lacks a vi­able in­dus­trial base and it is gov­erned by an in­com­pe­tent mu­nic­i­pal­ity – so it is im­per­a­tive that we en­hance our claim to be­ing a centre of ed­u­ca­tional ex­cel­lence. With­out ed­u­ca­tion, Gra­ham­stown would have pre­cious lit­tle. So we should stand firmly be­hind ev­ery young per­son in our city dur­ing this exam sea­son. Our fu­ture is in their hands.

More­over, as Nel­son Man­dela fa­mously said, “ed­u­ca­tion is the most pow­er­ful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Closer to home, it is the most pow­er­ful weapon with which one can change the for­tunes and tra­jec­to­ries of fam­i­lies. The fu­tures of many fam­i­lies in our city will be de­ter­mined, to a greater ex­tent, by the man­ner in which their younger mem­bers per­form in the up­com­ing ex­ams. There­fore all par­ents should go out of their way to give their chil­dren as much love, care, en­cour­age­ment and sup­port as pos­si­ble over the next six weeks.

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