For­get pass rates and as­sess qual­ity

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Janessa Leita

WHILE Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga’s an­nounce­ment of our im­proved na­tional pass rate of 72.5% from 2015’s 70.7% sparked a flurry of sta­tis­ti­cal de­bates around re­ten­tion rates, stan­dard­i­s­a­tion, adjustments and culling, we col­lec­tively be­come so bogged down by the num­bers that we miss the qual­i­ta­tive rich­ness of the sto­ries be­hind why fewer than half of the orig­i­nal class of 2016 fin­ished – and passed – their school­ing as well as what a matric pass means for those pupils who were cel­e­brat­ing on Jan­uary 5.

Can we con­grat­u­late our­selves on pro­duc­ing a big­ger batch of work-ready and univer­sity-ready young adults?

In­di­ca­tors such as the time taken for many stu­dents to ob­tain univer­sity qual­i­fi­ca­tions, the high drop-out rates at uni­ver­si­ties and many grad­u­ates’ lack of lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy, point to the blink­ered view which the matric pass rate gives us.

While the con­sen­sus is that more at­ten­tion needs to be paid to lower grades, what does this mean in a prac­ti­cal sense?

It is clear that the foun­da­tion which our pupils gain dur­ing their pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion is fail­ing to carry them through to matric, with maths and science be­ing par­tic­u­lar weak points.

The long-term im­pli­ca­tions of this is some­thing that the pass rate does not tell us – that the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion is more im­por­tant than its quan­tity in de­ter­min­ing both the eco­nomic growth of coun­tries and how in­di­vid­u­als per­form in their ca­reers.

In other words, re­ceiv­ing a matric pass does not mean that a pupil has the ex­pected cog­ni­tive skills to show for his or her 12 years of school­ing.

Re­searchers de­fine a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion as a cur­ricu­lum which pro­vides pupils with the knowl­edge, skills and val­ues that so­ci­ety ex­pects from its grad­u­ates.

How­ever, a pass rate can only pro­vide us with a mea­sure of the ex­tent to which knowl­edge, and to some ex­tent, skills, have been ac­quired.

How can we as­cer­tain whether our grad­u­ates can work ef­fec­tively as part of a team? Or com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively? We hold thumbs and hope for the best.

We may have im­proved on the ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, but we are still a long way off in defin­ing what qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion means in the South African con­text.

We have be­come so fo­cused on the end goal, pass­ing matric, that how we get there has be­come ir­rel­e­vant.

Sure, we can poke and prod the sta­tis­tics, in­ter­ro­gate their mean­ing and com­pare pro­vin­cial per­for­mance, but the pass rate is only a num­ber.

If we hope to build a dy­namic and en­trepreneurial work­force equipped to deal with the chal­lenges we are fac­ing, then per­haps it’s time to relook at what we are mea­sur­ing and how we are mea­sur­ing it. CEO of Think Dig­i­tal Col­lege


EC­STATIC: Ma­tric­u­lants at Mon­u­ment Park High school which ob­tained a 98.4% pass rate.

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